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Tree Top, Inc.’s Prosser Juice Facility Agrees to Pay EPA $89,067 for Emergency Planning and Release Prevention Violations

Release Date: 04/08/2008
Contact Information: Calvin Terada, EPA, (206) 553-4141, terada.calvin@epa.gov Tony Brown, Public Affairs, (206)553-7302, brown.anthony@epa.gov

(Seattle, Wash. – April 8, 2008) Tree Top, Inc.’s juice processing facility in Prosser, Washington has agreed to pay $89,067 for alleged federal Clean Air Act chemical accident prevention and emergency planning violations. The violations were discovered during an EPA inspection at the facility in June of 2006.

This Tree Top facility uses more than 10,000 lbs of anhydrous ammonia for refrigeration purposes. At that level of use, the Clean Air Act requires Tree Top, Inc. to implement a Risk Management Program (RMP). Specifically, Section 112(r) requires all public and private facilities that manufacture, process, use, store, or otherwise handle greater than a threshold amount of a regulated substance(s) to develop a “Risk Management Program” and submit Risk Management Plans. Toxic chemicals, such as ammonia and chlorine, are covered by the program.

Anhydrous ammonia has the potential to be one of the most dangerous chemicals used in refrigeration and agriculture today. Few problems occur when the ammonia is being handled and applied as intended, but most accidents with anhydrous ammonia are due to uncontrolled releases. It is used and stored under high pressure, which requires specially designed and well-maintained equipment. Those who work with anhydrous ammonia must be trained to follow exact handling procedures. The primary causes of uncontrolled releases are due to improper procedures, careless or untrained workers, or faulty equipment.

According to Agency officials, EPA conducted an inspection at the plant on June 20, 2006 and found the facility had failed to comply with several Risk Management Program requirements since June 20, 2004. Tree Top, Inc. has corrected all of the violations discovered during the inspection.

"We can't take chances with public health," said Mike Bussell, director of EPA’s Enforcement & Compliance Office in Seattle. “Preventing a release of something as potentially dangerous as anhydrous ammonia protects the lives of workers, responders and nearby residents. Unfortunately, Tree Top’s emergency prevention program didn’t meet Risk Management Program requirements and they have agreed to pay a penalty, but they’ve since taken positive steps to protect both their employees and the community.”

Specific items required by the Risk Management Program include: development of an emergency response or action plan; hazard evaluation of a “worst case and “more probable case” chemical release; operator training; review of the hazards associated with using toxic or flammable substances; and operating procedures and equipment maintenance.

“Washington state is home to just over half of the facilities in our region that require plans & programs”, said EPA’s Bussell. "Of those facilities that have failed to submit a required plan, close to 90 percent are located in the Yakima and Wenatchee valleys.”

To learn more about EPA’s work to protect communities from toxic chemicals through the Risk Management Program go to:

http://yosemite.epa.gov/R10/CLEANUP.NSF/sites/rmp

For more about toxic effects of Anhydrous Ammonia (NIOSH GUIDE):

http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/npg/npgd0028.html

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