SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KERO) — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Grimmway Enterprises agreed to pay more than $214,000 in penalties for violating the Clean Air Act and the emergency notification-related rules of two other federal laws at its Arvin facility.
The EPA said the settlement comes from an Aug. 2nd, 2019, incident where about 2,335 pounds of anhydrous ammonia where released at Grimmway’s Arvin facility. Anhydrous ammonia is designated an Extremely Hazardous Substance.
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.
An inspection by the EPA found that the company failed to notify state emergency authorities and the National Response Center immediately after the chemical was released.
The inspection also found that Grimmway didn't have required safety information for the equipment; was missing some required operating procedures for its ammonia refrigeration equipment; and lacked having procedures in place to notify the agencies about the release of chemicals; said the EPA.
The EPA also found that the company lacked required safety equipment such as chlorine sensors or alarms.
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.
“It is paramount that facilities properly manage extremely hazardous substances to prevent dangerous incidents or face significant Clean Air Act penalties,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Martha Guzman, in statement.
“When these incidents occur, first responders need to be notified immediately to ensure authorities are able to respond swiftly.”
Grimmway was found to have violated the Clean Air Act’s Risk Management Program as well as the reporting requirements of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act.
The EPA says Grimmway has returned to compliance and agreed to pay the penalties.