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Pharmaceutical Company Agrees to Pay $22,500 for Failing to Notify Officials of Explosion

Release Date: 01/18/2005
Contact Information:

Contact: Dave Deegan, ( 617) 918-1017, deegan.dave@epa.gov

For Immediate Release: January 18, 2004; Release # dd050103

BOSTON - The pharmaceutical company Pfizer Inc. has agreed to pay $22,500 to settle EPA claims that it failed to properly notify state and federal officials of a chemical release from its plant in Groton, Conn.

Pfizer will pay the penalty to settle claims it violated two federal laws: the Emergency Planning and Community Right-To-Know Act (EPCRA) and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA).

The agreement stems from an explosion and release of a hazardous substance in June 2002 at Pfizer’s Global Research and Development facility on Eastern Point Road in Groton, Conn. The explosion led to the release of about 1,400 pounds of tetrahydrofuran from a chemical warehouse. The release resulted in significant property damage, serious injuries to several employees and a major emergency response operation involving numerous federal, state and local organizations.

Under the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, any release of 1,000 pounds or more of tetrahydrofuran must be reported. During a chemical accident investigation of the incident, EPA determined that Pfizer had failed to comply with the reporting and notification requirements of both CERCLA and EPCRA. Specifically, Pfizer failed to immediately notify the National Response Center of the release, in violation of CERCLA, and failed to immediately notify the State Emergency Response Commission in violation of EPCRA.

“By failing to fulfill its notification requirements, Pfizer deprived the emergency responders of critical information during the early stages of the response to the explosion," said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA's New England office. “Those responding to an emergency need immediate information about a chemical release in order to know how to safely approach the scene and initiate proper mitigation procedures.”

EPA's Chemical Emergency Preparedness and Prevention Office, along with its regional and state counterparts, has prepared and disseminated information related to EPCRA and chemical releases. This information can be found at http://yosemite.epa.gov/oswer/ceppoweb.nsf/content/index.html.

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