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Ellington, Conn. Firm to Spend $35,000 To Resolve Complaint of Chemical Release Violations

Release Date: 11/15/2004
Contact Information:

Contact: Amy Miller, EPA Press Office (617-918-1042)

For Immediate Release: Nov 15, 2004 Release # am04-11-02

BOSTON – An Ellington, Conn., company has agreed to pay a penalty of $7,541 and spend $28,280 for environmental projects to settle claims by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that it did not immediately report a release of anhydrous ammonia from its juice packaging facility in violation of the federal law.

According to the complaint, Natural Country Farms released about 6,134 pounds of anhydrous ammonia on Oct. 14, 2003, which led to the evacuation of some 1,500 people within a half mile of the facility. Two elderly people were taken to the hospital for evaluation and ammonia concentrations of 150 parts per million were detected in the neighborhood after the release. The release triggered a major chemical emergency response operation that included numerous state, local and federal government organizations.

EPA’s complaint says Natural Country Farms, headquartered in Akron, Ohio, failed to report the release to the National Response Center, in violation of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), and failed to notify state authorities, as required by the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA). Natural Country Farms is a subsidiary of Country Pure Foods Inc., also of Akron.

The settlement requires Natural Country Farms, Inc. to pay a penalty of $7,541 and to donate emergency response equipment to, and fund emergency response training for, the local fire department, at a cost of $28,280.

“Late notification of a toxic release to the state and federal authorities makes it much harder for public health and safety officials to respond effectively to releases,” said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator for EPA’s New England office. “Timely reporting is especially important for facilities such as this one, where the large quantities of toxic materials stored and the facility’s close proximity to a population center vastly increase the risk.”

Under CERCLA and EPCRA, any release of more than 100 pounds of anhydrous ammonia requires an immediate notification to the National Pollution Response Center as well as to state and local emergency planning offices. Ammonia can burn the skin and vapors can cause irritation of the eyes and respiratory tract. High concentrations of ammonia are poisonous and could be fatal.

EPCRA was enacted to provide citizens with a right to know about chemicals in their communities. It require facilities to immediately notify emergency responders of accidental releases so that they can evaluate the need for a response action. Accidental releases of hazardous chemicals have the potential to cause acute and tragic adverse effects. Without timely knowledge of a release, emergency responders going to chemical emergencies cannot do their job – that is, working with industry to prevent or mitigate actual or potential harm to human health and the environment following a release of a hazardous chemical.

Related Information:
Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA)
Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) EPA HQ
CERCLA Enforcement