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Ontario, Calif., Food Processor to Pay $157,000 Fine for Toxic Ammonia Release

Release Date: 08/01/2013
Contact Information: Nahal Mogharabi, mogharabi.nahal@epa.gov, 213-244-1815

LOS ANGELES— The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced a settlement with food processing company Ventura Foods, LLC, located in Ontario, Calif. Ventura Foods has agreed to pay $157,900 for violations of federal regulations including failing to notify the proper officials immediately following the release of anhydrous ammonia, failure to submit a required Risk Management Plan, and inadequate chemical accident prevention.

“Facilities using highly toxic substances such as ammonia must abide by federal laws designed to protect the community,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “It is vital they eliminate equipment leaks, and implement plans and procedures to ensure the safety of workers, as well as emergency responders.”

At the request of local agencies, EPA conducted inspections of the Ontario facility. EPA investigators found that the facility had had over 24 ammonia releases since December 2007. A 288-pound release was in excess of the 100-pound reportable quantity that required immediate notification of authorities under the federal laws. Most of the ammonia releases were caused by flaws in the design and operation of systems. The facility has since completed upgrades to equipment to prevent future leaks.

In addition, the facility failed to submit a Risk Management Plan in a timely manner, failed to update process safety information, and didn’t provide current emergency contact information—all of which are necessary to ensure the safe operations of the facility and the proper management of ammonia.

Ventura Foods, located on East Jurupa Street in Ontario, Calif., manufactures, packages, and distributes an extensive line of oil-based food products, including shortenings, oils, margarines, salad dressings, mayonnaise, sauces, and syrups. As part of its processes, the Ontario facility stores and uses anhydrous ammonia in chilling phases of its product processing.

Anhydrous ammonia is a poisonous gas. Exposure to its vapors can cause temporary blindness and eye damage, and irritation of the skin, mouth, throat, respiratory tract and mucous membranes. Prolonged exposure to anhydrous ammonia vapor at high concentrations can lead to serious lung damage and even death.

The Clean Air Act requires owners and operators of stationary sources that manufacture, use, process, or store in excess of 10,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia to develop and implement a Risk Management Plan (RMP) that includes both accident prevention and emergency response programs, and to submit the RMP to EPA. Ventura Foods maintains 24,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia on-site at its Ontario facility.

For more information on the Clean Air Act, please visit: http://www.epa.gov/air/caa/


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