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Oregon cheese processing company pays EPA penalty for failing to report ammonia release

Release Date: 05/23/2012
Contact Information: Hanady Kader, EPA Public Affairs, 206-553-0454, kader.hanady@epa.gov; Suzanne Powers, EPA Emergency Response Program, 360-753-9475, powers.suzanne@epa.gov

(Seattle— May 23, 2012) Columbia River Processing, Inc. failed to report an anhydrous ammonia release at its Boardman, Oregon cheese processing facility in June 2008. The company agreed to a settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that includes a $42,435 penalty.

On June 30, 2008, an electrical storm caused power surges that disrupted the computers and compressors that control the ammonia system at the facility. The computer failure caused a pressure relief valve to open, releasing nearly 2,500 pounds of ammonia into the environment, according to the EPA settlement. Columbia River Processing failed to immediately notify local and state agencies about the release. No injuries were reported at the time of the incident.

According to Wally Moon, EPA Preparedness and Prevention Unit Manager in Seattle, these cases are about protecting workers, emergency responders and the community.

“When unintended chemical releases occur, every minute counts,” said EPA’s Moon. “Emergency responders need to be notified promptly to react effectively.”

Ammonia is a pungent, toxic gas that attacks skin, eyes, throat, and lungs and can cause serious injury or death.

The ammonia release and the failure to notify appropriate agencies are violations of the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA).

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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