USA: The US EPA has announced settlements totalling more than $826,000 with four Californian companies for alleged safety violations relating to the use of ammonia refrigeration.
In addition to the penalties, the companies will carry out safety improvements to their facilities, with the goal of protecting the public and first responders from dangerous chemicals.
An inspection of the Bakersfield facility of Dreyers Grand Ice Cream in September 2019 found the company failed to comply with process safety and hazard evaluation requirements. The EPA said it also failed to correct deficient equipment, manage change requirements, comply with compliance audit requirements and submit accurate hazardous chemical reports for anhydrous ammonia.
The company paid a penalty of $301,066 and improved process safety by adding machinery room signage, panic hardware, and an eyewash and safety shower. It also moved machinery room ammonia sensors, added labelling and improved machinery room emergency ventilation. The company also corrected deficient equipment and addressed outstanding recommendations from hazard evaluations and compliance audits.
An inspection in April 2018 of the Kern Ice and Cold Storage LLC facility, also in Bakersfield, found the company failed to identify hazards and conduct an adequate hazard review, design and maintain a safe facility and minimise the consequences of a release.
It agreed to a civil penalty of $115,012 and will make modifications to the facility to improve safety. These will include adding labelling, improving equipment access, installing emergency stop switches, and improving machine room ventilation.
A June 2018 inspection of Dole Fresh Vegetables Inc, owned by Dole Foods LLC and located in Marina, found the company failed to design and maintain a safe facility. Dole Fresh Vegetables also did not comply with process safety, hazard evaluation, and operating procedure requirements.
The company paid a penalty of $206,621 and made modifications to the facility to improve safety such as installing physical barriers around ammonia piping, improving machinery room ventilation, and improving emergency shutoff valve access. The facility also corrected deficient equipment, addressed outstanding hazard evaluation recommendations, and updated operating procedures.
A June 2018 EPA inspection of the Dole Packaged Foods LLC, owned by ITOCHU Corporation and located in Atwater, found the company failed to comply with process safety, hazard evaluation, operating procedure, and training requirements. It also failed to correct deficient equipment and develop and implement an adequate emergency response plan.
Dole Packaged Foods paid a civil penalty of $203,445 and installed physical barriers around ammonia pressure vessels and piping. The company also agreed to update operating procedures and ammonia operator training, conduct a mechanical integrity audit and address the audit’s recommendations, conduct an emergency response team drill, and address outstanding action items from previous drills.
“It is paramount that facilities properly manage the handling of extremely hazardous substances to prevent dangerous incidents,” said EPA Pacific Southwest regional director of enforcement and compliance, Amy Miller. “Industry needs to properly manage dangerous substances or face significant Clean Air Act penalties."