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Multiple EPA Enforcement Cases Show Need to Follow Chemical Management and Accident Prevention Laws in New England

Release Date: 02/12/2007
Contact Information: Sheryl Rosner, (617) 918-1865

(Boston, Mass - Feb. 12, 2007) - Over the past several months, EPA has taken aggressive enforcement actions against New England facilities that have violated federal chemical emergency response and prevention laws. These laws and regulations direct companies and organizations that use, store and manage hazardous chemicals to develop comprehensive chemical risk management plans, provide emergency responders with critical information about the presence of hazardous chemicals at their facilities, and follow guidelines to reduce the risk of accidents from hazardous chemicals.


    Recent traumatic events, such as terrorist attacks, hurricanes and accidental fires, have highlighted the importance of preparing for, preventing, and responding quickly to chemical releases in our communities.

    Under this effort, EPA has taken legal action against 18 separate facilities throughout New England, including six municipalities that store bulk chemicals at their water treatment facilities. As a result of these cases, the facilities either face or have paid penalties, and have spent millions of dollars in safety improvements. In one case, EPA’s enforcement action against NOVA Chemicals of Indian Orchard, Mass. will result in nearly $3 million in safety improvements to the facility’s polystyrene processes.

    “If there is an emergency involving hazardous chemicals, first responders rely on chemical management databases to protect the surrounding community and themselves,” said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “This is not simply a paperwork exercise – by following proper accident prevention and reporting protocols and ensuring that emergency responders have up-to-date and accurate chemical information, we can prevent chemical accidents, save lives, and protect peoples’ health during emergency responses.”

    A number of large and small chemical releases by local companies have led EPA’s New England office to intensify efforts to make sure facilities storing large amounts of chemicals follow procedures for reporting the presence of chemicals, follow steps to prevent chemical accidents and immediately report releases to state and federal emergency responders. These practices are required by several federal environmental laws, including the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), the Clean Air Act (CAA), and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA).

    EPA has taken action to enforce chemical preparedness and reporting laws at the following New England facilities. Further detail on each action is available on the attached fact sheet.

    NOVA Chemicals Inc. Indian Orchard, Mass.
    Callahan Co. Walpole, Mass.
    Hallsmith SYSCO Norton, Mass.
    AGAR Supply Co. Taunton, Mass.
    John B. Hull, Inc. Great Barrington, Mass.
    North Atlantic Fish Company, Inc. Gloucester, Mass.
    Atlantic Wire Company, LLC Branford, Conn.
    Atlantic Coast Polymers, Inc. Plainfield, Conn.
    Barber Foods Portland, Maine
    Ocean State Power Company Harrisville, Rhode Island
    ChemArt Company Lincoln, Rhode Island
    Ellsworth Ice Cream Company North Springfield, Vermont
    Glastonbury Wastewater Treatment Plant Glastonbury, Conn.
    Norwich Wastewater Treatment Plant Norwich, Conn.
    Lake Auburn Intake Facility Lewiston and Auburn, Maine
    Amesbury Drinking Water Treatment Plant Amesbury, Mass.
    Danvers Drinking Water Treatment Plant Danvers, Mass.
    Newport Wastewater Treatment Facility Newport, Vermont

    Because it is important that companies and municipalities understand their obligations under the law, EPA offers technical assistance to facilities to ensure compliance with these important environmental statutes. In fact, throughout the month of February, EPA is holding a series of workshops across New England to help facilities understand reporting requirements, such as the chemical inventory information that must be filed with local and state emergency response authorities. In FY 2006, EPA conducted 15 such workshops as well as 11 disaster preparedness exercises and 16 workshops to train first responders in the use of emergency planning and response software.

    EPA also encourages companies to take advantage of its Audit Policy, a program that includes incentives for regulated entities to voluntarily disclose and come into compliance with federal environmental laws and regulations. Last fiscal year, approximately 30 facilities disclosed that they had failed to provide chemical inventory information to the proper state and local authorities, for which EPA deferred more than $3.2 million in penalties.

    The deadline for filing hazardous chemical inventory information (as required under EPCRA sec. 312) is March 1.

    More information:

    EPA training workshops on EPCRA reporting requirements (http://www.epa.gov/region01/cal/index.html)

    EPA info on EPCRA in New England: (http://www.epa.gov/region01/enforcement/epcra/index.html)

    National EPA info on chemical emergency preparedness and prevention programs: (www.epa.gov/ne/tks/chemprepinfo/)

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    Fact Sheet February 2007

    Summary of EPA Enforcement Actions Related to Chemical Reporting and Emergency Preparedness

    Enforcement of the Clean Air Act’s “General Duty Clause”

    The General Duty Clause of the federal Clean Air Act (Sec. 112(r)(1)) requires facilities to (1) identify hazards that may result from accidental releases of extremely hazardous substances; (2) design and maintain a safe facility, taking such steps as are necessary to prevent releases; and (3) minimize the consequences of accidental releases that do occur.

    In 2006, EPA New England’s work on two General Duty Clause enforcement cases greatly reduced the risk of chemical accidents from two chemical companies in Massachusetts. On Jan. 7, 2004, the NOVA Chemicals Inc. facility in Indian Orchard, Mass. released 4,500 pounds of extremely flammable styrene from its facility. An EPA investigation of the plant revealed that one of its polystyrene manufacturing processes was not safely designed. EPA filed suit against the facility for violations of the General Duty Clause.

    EPA and NOVA Chemicals settled the General Duty case for a cash penalty of $13,800 and a $14,000 Supplemental Environmental Project requiring the donation of emergency response equipment to the Springfield fire department. After further examination, EPA concluded that, despite the recent steps that NOVA had taken to improve the safety of its polystyrene manufacturing process, the facility continued to pose a significant risk of accidental release. In response to these September 2006 findings, NOVA agreed to make necessary safety improvements during a temporary shut down of its operations. Together with the improvements made as a result of EPA’s first enforcement action, safety improvements made in response to EPA’s second inspection will cost NOVA nearly $3 million.

    In April 2006, Callahan Co. of Walpole, Mass. agreed to pay a cash penalty of $40,000 and undertake two Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs) worth $317,000. Among other things, Callahan, a bulk chemical delivery company, had failed to employ adequate safeguards to prevent two releases of highly flammable acetone at the facility. Moreover, the second release caused damage to an adjacent wetland when the spilled acetone washed into the wetland after a rain storm. Callahan’s SEPs were designed to add additional safeguards and safety measures to ensure against further chemical releases from its facility.


    Failure to Notify Emergency Authorities after Discovery of a Chemical Release

    In December 2006, EPA settled a case against Barber Foods, a food processing facility located in Portland, Maine, for failing to immediately notify the National Response Center of a release of anhydrous ammonia from its refrigeration system. The facility released an estimated 1,700 pounds of anhydrous ammonia, over 17 times the reportable quantity, and waited at least sixteen hours after it knew of the release to notify proper authorities. The settlement includes $37,700 in penalties, and the company has spent approximately $10,000 on safety improvements.

    Failure to Prepare and Submit Emergency and Hazardous Inventory Forms under EPCRA

    - In Dec. 2006, the North Atlantic Fish Company, Inc., of Gloucester, Mass. agreed to pay a $10,000 penalty for failing to submit emergency and hazardous chemical inventory forms to appropriate authorities. The facility uses more than 4,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia in its production of frozen seafood, which is eight times the minimum reportable threshold quantity.

    - AGAR Supply Co. in Taunton, Mass. agreed to pay a penalty of $2,190 for failing to review, update and submit various elements of its Risk Management Plan and failing in two prior years to submit its annual EPCRA hazardous chemicals inventory form to the appropriate state and local authorities. The facility is subject to these requirements because it uses approximately 25,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia in its refrigeration processes.

    - EPA is seeking $27,800 in penalties against Atlantic Wire Company, LLC, of Branford, Conn. for failing to report an extremely hazardous substance and a hazardous chemical on an emergency and hazardous chemical inventory form to appropriate authorities for calendar years 2003-2005. The facility is held to this requirement because is uses about 43,000 pounds of sulfuric acid and 20,000 pounds of sodium hydroxide in its production of steel wire and rod.

    - John B. Hull, Inc., a fuel storage and distribution company with facilities in Great Barrington and Sheffield, Mass., agreed to pay $18,000 under EPCRA for failing to file hazardous chemical inventory information for oil that exceeded 10 times the threshold. The company also agreed to pay $42,000 for violations of the Clean Water Act’s oil spill prevention regulations.
      Failure to adequately update and re-submit Risk Management Plans (RMPs) under the Clean Air Act:

      During recent months, EPA has settled ten cases with facilities that violated Risk Management Planning requirements under the CAA. As a condition for settling the cases with EPA, the facilities were required to certify that they promptly came into compliance with the RMP requirements. EPA found that the following facilities failed to complete one or more of the required updates, and the facilities agreed to pay penalties ranging from $630 to $3,650:

      - Atlantic Coast Polymers, Inc., which operates a chemical manufacturing facility in Plainfield, Conn. that produces water-soluble polymers, agreed to pay a penalty of $638 in an expedited settlement for RMP violations.

      - The ChemArt Company facility, which manufactures metal ornaments and awards in Lincoln, Rhode Island, paid a penalty of $1,160 in an expedited settlement for RMP violations.

      - Danvers, Mass. Drinking Water Treatment Plant: A drinking water plant owned by Town of Danvers, Mass. signed an expedited settlement of $1,825 for RMP violations.

      - Glastonbury, Conn. Wastewater Treatment Plant: The Town of Glastonbury, Conn. signed an expedited settlement of $730 for RMP violations. The Wastewater Treatment Plant processes an average of 2.5 million gallons of wastewater per day.

      - Norwich, Conn. Wastewater Treatment Plant: The City of Norwich, Conn. operates a treatment plant on Holly Hock Island in the Yantic River that processes an average of 5 million gallons of wastewater per day. The facility violated RMP regulations and agreed to an expedited settlement in the amount of $730.

      - Hallsmith SYSCO Food Services, LLC operates a food service and distribution warehouse in Norton, Mass. The facility violated RMP regulations and signed an expedited settlement in the amount of $630.

      - Ellsworth Ice Cream Company, Inc. operates a frozen dessert production facility in North Springfield, Vermont. The facility violated RMP regulations and signed an expedited settlement agreement in the amount of $1,460.

      - Newport, VT Wastewater Treatment Facility: The City of Newport, VT operates a treatment plant that processes approximately 1.2 million gallons of wastewater per day. The facility violated RMP regulations and signed an expedited settlement in the amount of $730.

      - Lake Auburn, ME Intake Facility: The City of Lewiston and the Auburn Water District jointly operate a drinking water intake facility on Lake Auburn, Maine. The facility violated RMP regulations and signed an expedited settlement agreement in the amount of $3,650.

      - Amesbury, Mass. Drinking Water Treatment Plant: The Amesbury, Mass. Drinking Water Treatment Plant, which has the capacity to treat 4.5 million gallons per day, signed an expedited settlement for a penalty of $1,460.

      “Other RMP cases”

      On Jan. 17, 2007, the Ocean State Power Co., an electric generation facility in Harrisville, R.I., agreed to pay an $11,600 penalty for Clean Air Act violations. Because the company stores large quantities of ammonia at the facility it is required file a Risk Management Plan (RMP) under the CAA, which it failed to adequately update. RMPs are required to include an analysis of potential off-site consequences in the event of a release and a self-audit for emergency preparedness.

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