SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KERO) — Four companies, including two with facilities in Bakersfield, reached a settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for alleged violations of Clean Air Act chemical release prevention rules at anhydrous ammonia facilities.
A September 2019 EPA inspection of a Dreyers Grand Ice Cream Inc. facility in Bakersfield found the company failed to comply with process safety and hazard evaluation requirements; correct deficient equipment; manage change requirements; comply with compliance audit requirements; and submit accurate hazardous chemical reports for anhydrous ammonia.
What is Anhydrous Ammonia?
Anhydrous ammonia can cause serious, often irreversible health effects when released. In addition to potential harmful effects from inhalation of or skin contact with this substance, it is highly flammable. Anhydrous ammonia is considered an extremely hazardous substance.
Dreyers paid a penalty of $301,066 and improved process safety, corrected deficient equipment, and addressed outstanding recommendations from hazard evaluations and compliance audits.
An April 2018 EPA inspection of the Kern Ice and Cold Storage LLC. facility in Bakersfield found the company failed to identify hazards and conduct an adequate hazard review; design and maintain a safe facility; and minimize the consequences of a release.
Kern Ice agreed to a civil penalty of $115,012 and will make modifications to the facility to improve safety. These will include adding labeling, improving equipment access, installing emergency stop switches, and improving machine room ventilation.
“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 in a statement. “Industry needs to properly manage dangerous substances or face significant Clean Air Act penalties.”
Why is anhydrous ammonia dangerous?
Anhydrous ammonia presents a significant health hazard because it is corrosive to the skin, eyes and lungs. Exposure to 300 parts per million is immediately dangerous to life and health. Anhydrous ammonia is also flammable at concentrations of about 15 to 28 percent by volume in air. It can explode if it is released in an enclosed space with a source of ignition present, or if a vessel containing anhydrous ammonia is exposed to fire.
Two other companies with facilities in the Central Valley also settled with the EPA.
Dole Fresh Vegetables in Marina, Calif., paid a penalty of $206,621 and made modifications to the facility to improve safety.
Dole Packaged Foods in Atwater, Calif., paid a civil penalty of $203,445 and installed physical barriers around ammonia pressure vessels and piping.