Kansas City, Kan. -- Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc., (BIV), has agreed to pay a $300,000 civil penalty to the United States to settle a series of alleged violations of the federal Clean Air Act at its veterinary health products facility in St. Joseph, Mo.
According to a civil complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Mo., BIV’s St. Joseph plant allegedly violated sections of the Clean Air Act that relate to industrial refrigerant repair, testing, recordkeeping and reporting, and which are designed to regulate the amount of ozone-depleting substances that are used and released into the environment.
In a civil consent decree lodged yesterday with the court, BIV has agreed to pay a $300,000 penalty in settlement of the violations, and perform a series of injunctive relief actions at its St. Joseph facility. Those relief actions include conducting a one-time analysis of leaks occurring during the 2011 calendar year for all industrial process equipment and other appliances at the St. Joseph facility, and implementing training sessions and specific course content related to the service and repair of equipment that contains refrigerants.
Additionally, as part of the settlement, BIV has agreed to perform a supplemental environmental project, through which it will spend a minimum of $600,000 to replace refrigeration equipment at its Fort Dodge, Iowa, facility, switching older equipment that uses ozone-depleting substances for new units that don’t use ozone-depleting substances.
According to the complaint, EPA issued an information request to BIV in March 2005, seeking information about the condition of cooling systems at the St. Joseph facility, the services performed on appliances at the facility, and the amounts of refrigerant that it used. The complaint alleges that BIV’s response to the information request was not complete and accurate because it failed to report the true amount of refrigerant purchased by the facility, and failed to list all suppliers of refrigerant to the facility.
The complaint further alleges that the St. Joseph facility’s annualized leak rates of one or more of its industrial refrigeration systems exceeded 35 percent on one or more occasions during a five-year period. It also alleges BIV failed to perform leak testing and follow-up verification tests, failed to develop retrofit or retirement plans for leaking equipment, failed to complete retrofit or replacement of leaking equipment, and failed to maintain proper service and maintenance records for its equipment.
Leaks and releases of certain types of industrial refrigerants into the atmosphere can result in the destruction of naturally-occurring stratospheric ozone, which filters the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation. A diminished ozone layer allows more radiation to reach the Earth's surface. For people, overexposure to UV rays can lead to skin cancer, cataracts, and weakened immune systems. Increased UV can also lead to reduced crop yield and disruptions in the marine food chain.
The consent decree is subject to a 30-day public comment period and court approval before it becomes final.