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Mukilteo, Washington seafood distributor to pay $35,000 for failure to properly report release of ammonia

Release Date: 06/28/2010
Contact Information: Suzanne Powers, EPA CERCLA Program, (360) 753-9475, powers.suzanne@epa.gov Tony Brown, EPA Public Affairs, (206) 553-1203, brown.anthony@epa.gov

(Seattle – June 28, 2010) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reached a settlement with Pacific Seafood Group for its alleged failure to report the release of ammonia from the company’s warehouse and distribution center in Mukilteo, Wash., in a timely manner. EPA announced the settlement today, which includes a $35,000 penalty.

The settlement is related to an ammonia release estimated at 210 pounds on May 29, 2009. The Rane Company, which is located next door to Pacific Seafood, notified the Mukilteo Fire Department when their employees detected a strong ammonia odor coming from Pacific Seafood.

"When unintended chemical releases occur, every minute counts if it is an emergency,” said Edward Kowalski, Director of EPA’s Office of Compliance and Enforcement in Seattle. “Emergency responders need to be notified promptly to react effectively.”

The cause of the ammonia leak was due to a pressure relief valve that had opened due to high pressure from an incorrect setting. That valve has since been replaced and all other valves checked for correct sizing. No injuries were reported. Ammonia is a colorless gas that can cause severe burns to skin, eyes, throat, and lungs, and with high enough exposure, death.

In the agreement, EPA alleges that Pacific Seafood failed to immediately notify emergency response entities after the ammonia release occurred and they failed to submit a completed Emergency and Hazardous Chemical Inventory Form. The federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act require that releases of hazardous substances such as ammonia above a reportable quantity be immediately reported to federal, state and local emergency responders.

Pacific Seafood distributes fresh frozen seafood, beef, pork, and poultry products. They use anhydrous ammonia as a refrigerant.

For information on EPA's Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act, visit http://www.epa.gov/compliance/civil/epcra/epcraenfstatreq.html

For more about toxic effects of Anhydrous Ammonia (NIOSH GUIDE): http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/npg/npgd0028.html

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