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U.S. EPA, CALIFORNIA ALMOND GROWERS SETTLE AIR POLLUTION CHARGES

Release Date: 3/15/1995
Contact Information: Dave Schmidt, U.S. EPA, (415) 744-1578

  (San Francisco)--The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
(U.S. EPA) today announced that the California Almond Growers
Exchange has agreed to pay an initial penalty of $437,000 to
settle charges that it greatly exceeded air pollution limits at
its facility at 2020 North B St. in Sacramento.


     The company, also known as Blue Diamond, will pay an
additional $238,000 -- for a total penalty of $675,000 -- once it
has confirmed that the facility can viably operate while meeting
requirements to protect public health in the area.  Terms of the
settlement were contained in a consent decree lodged concurrently
with a civil complaint today in U.S. District Court in
Sacramento.


     "Tens of thousands of tons of carbon monoxide were illegally
pumped into Sacramento's air by this plant over the last 12
years," said David Howekamp, director of air and toxics for U.S.
EPA's western regional office.  "This kind of activity cannot be
tolerated, particularly in an area like Sacramento that is
struggling to solve its air pollution problems."


     Howekamp added that much of the blame for the violations
lies with Imotek, a now-defunct company that constructed the
facility with the California Almond Growers Exchange in 1980.
"However, the Exchange must share responsibility for this
excessive polluting," said Howekamp.  The Exchange took over
operations from Imotek completely in 1985.


     Howekamp said that recently installed emissions control
equipment will cut carbon monoxide emissions from the plant's
cogeneration boiler from up to 6,000 tons per year to less than
250 tons.  Emissions of nitrogen oxides, which contribute to
smog, will be cut from about 183 tons per year to about 130 tons.
In addition, the facility will save about $125,000 a year in fuel
costs and emissions fees due to increased combustion efficiency
using the new equipment.


     Carbon monoxide reduces the ability of blood to deliver
oxygen to vital tissues, affecting primarily the cardiovascular
and nervous systems.  Lower concentrations have been shown to
adversely affect individuals with heart disease and to decrease
exercise performance in young, healthy individuals.  Higher
concentrations can cause symptoms such as dizziness, headaches
and fatigue.  The Sacramento area does not yet meet federal
health standards for levels of either carbon monoxide or smog in
the air.


     Nitrogen oxides react with volatile organic compounds and
sunlight to form ground-level ozone, or smog.  Ozone causes
health problems by damaging lung tissue and sensitizing the lungs
to other irritants.  Regular exposure to ozone at concentrations
below levels found in Sacramento has been found to significantly
reduce lung function in normal, healthy people during periods of
moderate exercise.  People with asthma, the elderly, and children
are especially at risk.


     The California Almond Growers Exchange's processing facility
in Sacramento uses almond shells as fuel in a boiler that
provides steam to the plant and electricity to Pacific Gas and
Electric.  It was granted a minor source permit in 1980 by the
Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District to emit
up to 99 tons of carbon monoxide a year from its cogeneration
boiler.  Information gathered from the company by U.S. EPA
indicates that this limit was exceeded by thousands of tons a
year until 1994.


     Because of Imotek's claims that the facility's emissions
would be below a 100-ton-per-year threshold, preconstruction
permits for a major new source of air pollution were not
obtained.  Such permits would have mandated specific pollution
control measures and other conditions to minimize the facility's
impact on air quality.


     Current tests at the facility indicate that it has
successfully met emissions limits with the new technology.  Those
tests must be confirmed with six months of monitoring data from
the facility.



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