New Haven, Conn. Cold Storage Warehouse Fined for Release of Toxic Ammonia from Facility
Boston, MA -- EPA recently settled a case with Connecticut Freezers, Inc. and Maritime International, Inc. stemming from the release of about 5,000 pounds of ammonia from a cold storage warehouse in New Haven, Conn.
The settlement requires a $50,000 penalty and performance of $160,000 worth of environmental projects, including trainings for other companies and emergency responders. This is one of many enforcement actions that the Region has undertaken recently to improve safety at facilities with ammonia refrigeration systems.
Recently, EPA has found poor safety conditions at some refrigeration systems, leading to many compliance orders and penalty actions under the Clean Air Act’s chemical accident prevention provisions. Since August 2012, EPA has issued six compliance orders to New England facilities and two penalty cases that each settled for more than $100,000.
“It is very important for companies using hazardous chemicals to understand the risks associated with their use of such chemicals and maintain a safe operation,” said regional administrator Curt Spalding. “We are optimistic that the trainings provided by this settlement will help companies manage their ammonia refrigeration systems more safely before EPA inspectors arrive or a release occurs that puts workers, the community, and emergency responders at risk.”
On May 25, 2011, corroded piping and brackets gave way under the 1 Brewery Street warehouse, resulting in an ammonia release. EPA issued compliance orders to ensure safety at this cold storage warehouse and others that the companies operate in New Bedford, Mass. and East Hartford, Conn. The companies cooperated fully, spending over $100,000 to comply.
Subsequently, on Sept. 26, 2012, EPA issued a penalty order alleging that the companies had failed to:
comply with the “General Duty Clause” of the Clean Air Act’s chemical accident prevention provisions;
comply with the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act by not reporting the release in a timely fashion to the National Response Center; and
comply with the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act by failing to submit a timely follow-up notice to emergency responders following the release.
The final settlement includes a $50,000 penalty, which reflects the companies’ status as small businesses. It also, requires the companies to install a state-of-the-art ammonia detection system at its East Harford facility with detectors in more places than the current system. This system will be integrated with emergency controls to shut down refrigeration machinery upon detecting certain concentrations of ammonia. Additionally, the companies will reduce the potential for ammonia releases at its New Bedford Bridge Terminal. Finally, the companies will hire a refrigeration expert to hold three training sessions for other ammonia refrigeration system operators and emergency responders in the New Bedford, New Haven, and Hartford areas. The trainings will address compliance with the General Duty Clause, industry standards of care, running a safe system, and responding appropriately to any accidents.
- For general information on the General Duty Clause: http://www.epa.gov/osweroe1/docs/chem/gdcregionalguidance.pdf
- For information on EPA’s risk management planning regulations: http://www.epa.gov/emergencies/content/rmp/index.htm
- For information about EPCRA: http://www.epa.gov/emergencies/content/epcra/index.htm
- For information about industry standards applying to ammonia refrigeration systems: http://www.iiar.org
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