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Supplier for Embalming Chemicals Takes Action to Improve Safety at Facilities under Settlement

Release Date: 11/25/2013
Contact Information: David Deegan, (617) 918-1017

(Boston, Mass. – Nov. 25, 2013) – A supplier and former manufacturer of embalming chemicals has taken actions to increase public safety at its former Cambridge, Mass. facility, as well as at distribution warehouses in Texas, Illinois and California, under a settlement with EPA.

The settlement with Dodge Company of Billerica, Mass. addresses concerns identified by EPA that procedures designed to prevent accidental releases of hazardous chemicals, and procedures to help protect first responders in the event of an accident, were not adequately followed. EPA’s action has helped the facilities to enact better public safety measures in their resident communities. Under the settlement, the company will also pay a $400,000 penalty.

According to EPA’s complaint, Dodge Company failed to comply with chemical risk management planning requirements of the Clean Air Act at four facilities (Cambridge, Mass., Fort Worth, Texas, Batavia, Ill. and Fontana, Calif.), and failed to file chemical inventory reports required by the federal Emergency Planning and Right-to-Know-Act (EPCRA) for its facilities in Texas, Illinois and California. The purpose of these requirements – commonly known as the RMP regulations – is to prevent accidental releases of certain extremely hazardous substances. The regulations also help facilities and emergency responders cope with any releases that do occur. A facility’s compliance with the RMP regulations is summarized in a risk management plan that is submitted to EPA every five years. The EPCRA chemical inventory reports provide information about a facility’s hazardous chemicals to emergency responders and the public.

The most serious and numerous violations were at the former Cambridge, Mass. operation, which was located near a transit center, several businesses and a public bikeway. At the time of the violations, this facility blended, packaged, stored and sold embalming chemicals and other products needed for funerals. In its manufacture of embalming chemicals, Dodge used formaldehyde, a flammable chemical that can also form toxic gas, as well as flammable methanol and isopropanol. Formaldehyde is one of the chemicals regulated under the RMP regulations.

This action stems from EPA inspections of the Cambridge facility in January 2010, which were conducted after EPA learned of safety violations discovered by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. EPA also identified Dodge as one of the facilities that had not yet submitted its five-year risk management plan update. The inspectors discovered that, although Dodge had originally filed a risk management plan for the compounding process, it was not in compliance with most of the underlying RMP regulations and had never filed a risk management plan for its warehousing operations.

Among other things, inspectors discovered that Dodge’s Cambridge facility had: no tank design information; improperly maintained formaldehyde tanks and tank supports; no overfill controls on tanks; compromised secondary containment of tanks; no emergency lighting, and broken overflow detectors. An analysis done after EPA’s inspection revealed a potential for fire or explosion resulting from a buildup of flammable vapor and the introduction of a spark from either static discharge or improperly-rated electrical equipment.

The agreement settles charges of 10 violations of the Clean Air Act at the Massachusetts facility as well as one charge of violating the Clean Air Act and one charge of violating EPCRA at each of the other facilities. The alleged violations of EPCRA involve Dodge’s failure to timely submit chemical inventory forms to fire departments and other emergency planning/response agencies.

The other warehouses in Texas, Illinois and California did not have risk management plans until 2011, after EPA inspected the Cambridge, Mass. facility. Dodge was cooperative throughout the enforcement process and complied with all EPA requests, including an administrative compliance order and an information request that EPA issued in 2010. Despite the dangers discovered at the Massachusetts facility, EPA has no knowledge of any chemical releases associated with any of the company’s facilities.

Based on cases like this one, EPA recommends that companies with RMP programs take care in two particular ways. First, companies should not assume that a consultant’s work product for the first risk management plan should be used for subsequent rounds without close review and updating. Second, when a knowledgeable employee departs, the company must promptly cover the departed employee’s regulatory areas. EPA has observed many cases where RMP programs fell through the cracks because key personnel retired or moved on. Preventing chemical accidents is all about erecting, and continually maintaining, several layers of protection – for example having a robust tank inspection program to prevent releases coupled with a vapor detection and alarm system to minimize the harm from any releases that do occur.

More information about the RMP regulations and EPCRA requirements (http://www.epa.gov/emergencies/programs.htm) .

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