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E. Providence Company Faces Fine for Ammonia Violations

Release Date: 10/05/2010
Contact Information: David Deegan, (617) 918-1017

(Boston, Oct. 5, 2010) – Tanner Industries, an East Providence, R.I., company that distributes ammonia, faces a $149,080 penalty for violating federal regulations meant to prevent chemical accidents, according to a recent complaint by EPA.

Tanner operates ammonia distribution facilities across the country, including one in East Providence, and is subject to the Clean Air Act’s risk management planning requirements because ammonia is an extremely hazardous substance. Although Tanner has a risk management plan, EPA’s New England office is proposing to fine Tanner for a deficiency in its plan concerning the failure to anticipate the problems that could arise if an ammonia release occurred at the East Providence facility during periods when the facility is unstaffed. In a separate administrative order issued in June 2009, EPA New England ordered Tanner to correct these deficiencies, and Tanner is cooperating, according to EPA.

The facility is not routinely staffed except when ammonia is transported into or out of the facility. Tanner’s primary emergency plan is to rely on local emergency responders to respond to any ammonia releases, although the facility has no automatic ammonia sensors to alert emergency responders of potential releases. The facility is about a tenth of a mile from a residential neighborhood, and even closer to other public businesses.

According to the complaint filed by EPA, Tanner failed to do the required analyses or take precautions to address the fact that its facility is not routinely staffed except when ammonia is being actually received or distributed. For instance, Tanner failed to consider the use of sensors or monitors to detect leaks of ammonia or conditions that might lead to leaks. Tanner’s emergency response program also did not include adequate communication and coordination with local emergency response agencies, and the company’s plan did not ensure that the public would receive adequate notice of an accidental release.

Exposure to anhydrous ammonia, which is toxic and corrosive, can result in chemical-type burns to skin, eyes, and lungs. These burns may be serious enough to cause permanent blindness, lung disease, or death. 

More information: Enforcing Clean Air Act requirements in New England (http://www.epa.gov/region1/enforcement/air/index.html)

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