EPA requires New England companies to manage chemicals better

Photo Credit: MGN Online
Photo Credit: MGN Online

BOSTON – Five companies in New England that store or use extremely hazardous chemicals are taking action to improve the safety of their operations, following settlements with EPA for violating federal regulations meant to prevent chemical accidents from occurring.

All five companies – two in Connecticut, two in Massachusetts and one in New Hampshire – were charged with violating Clean Air Act requirements that protect communities, workers, and emergency responders from accidental releases of extremely hazardous substances, such as chlorine, ammonia, hydrochloric acid, and sulfur dioxide. In addition, one company was charged with violating community right-to-know requirements that give neighbors information about hazardous chemicals in their midst. Another was charged for failing to notify the National Response Center about sodium hypochlorite that spilled out of a ruptured tank that had no secondary containment. This tank was located near the Merrimack River in New Hampshire.

The companies will correct their alleged violations to ensure that their communities, neighbors and first responders are not put at risk, and the companies will pay penalties ranging from just over $5,600 to over $85,000 for violating provisions of the Clean Air Act, Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) and/or the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). Additionally, two companies will make their communities safer by performing supplemental environmental projects that go above and beyond what is required by law. One of these projects involves the elimination of toxic chlorine, and one requires the purchase of state-of-the-art equipment to detect ammonia releases and automatically shut down ammonia processes in the event of a release.

“Failing to carefully follow chemical accident prevention requirements and chemical reporting requirements poses increased risks of exposure to dangerous substances for both people and the environment,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “Hazardous substances must be properly handled to ensure that the local community and first responders are not subject to unacceptable risks. This is why companies are required to implement safety precautions to prevent accidental releases of these chemicals.”

Companies that settled EPA allegations of violating the federal Clean Air Act or Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act were:

Metal Finishing Technologies, Inc., of Forestville, Conn. will take steps to significantly reduce risks and pay a $12,400 penalty for failing to properly address several requirements of the Clean Air Act’s Risk Management Planning (RMP) program and perform a Supplemental Environmental Project that will eliminate the use of chlorine gas at the Facility at a cost of at least $54,000. The RMP program requires companies with certain amounts of very hazardous chemicals to develop and implement a program to prevent accidental releases of those chemicals and to reduce any consequences from an accidental release. Metal Finishing Technologies was subject to RMP requirements because of its use of chlorine gas, an extremely toxic substance. EPA conducted an inspection of the facility in Dec. 2011 where inspectors documented 10 violations of Section 112(r) of the Clean Air Act. The Facility was required to maintain an up-to-date and complete RMP, including accurate information pertaining to Facility contacts, process safety information, process hazard analysis; a review of operating procedures; training; a review of mechanical integrity of equipment; and a complete and accurate emergency response plan. The failure to correctly prepare, update and/or implement an RMP for chlorine gas put the Facility’s employees, emergency responders and the surrounding area at risk from accidental releases.

JCI Jones Chemicals, Inc., of Merrimack, N.H. is a chemical manufacturing and distribution company specializing in water and waste-water treatment products. The company has agreed to pay $40,920 to resolve allegations that it violated federal chemical safety laws at its facility in Merrimack. Among other things, EPA alleged that JCI Jones violated RMP requirements by failing to adequately evaluate risks associated with storing and handling chlorine and sulfur dioxide in proximity to incompatible chemicals, such as sodium hypochlorite, and on-site traffic. In addition, JCI violated CERCLA reporting requirements when it failed to immediately notify the National Response Center of an accidental release of sodium hypochlorite from a ruptured storage tank unprotected by secondary containment and located in proximity to the Merrimack River.

Holland Company, Inc., of Adams, Mass. manufactures chemical products for water treatment and distributes these chemicals and products from other suppliers to municipal and industrial water and wastewater treatment plants. Holland has agreed to pay a penalty of $85,166 for violations of Section 112(r) of the Clean Air Act by failing to comply with the RMP regulations for its storage of hydrochloric acid at its facility. Holland stores hydrochloric acid, which is a RMP chemical, at its Facility for use by PCA Systems (see below). EPA determined that from at least Feb. 2008 until April 2010, Holland had violated hazardous chemical reporting requirements by failing to: (1) develop and submit a “Program 2 RMP” for hydrochloric acid; (2) develop a RMP management system; (3) complete a hazard assessment; (4) conduct a hazard review; (5) comply with operating procedure requirements; (6) comply with training requirements; and (7) comply with maintenance requirements. Holland has come into compliance by substituting the hydrochloric acid it was using with a safer, less concentrated hydrochloric acid that is not subject to RMP requirements.

PCA Systems, Inc., of Adams, Mass. is a related company to Holland Company (see above), and operates a facility adjacent to the Holland facility that uses hydrochloric acid. PCA and Holland share common management and coordinate their business activities. PCA will pay a penalty of $44,351for its alleged violations of the RMP regulations.

Northeastern Shaped Wire, Inc., of Southington, Conn. manufactures shaped coil and wire, and has agreed to pay $5,626 in penalties and to purchase and install a state-of the-art hazardous chemical detection and alarm system worth $26,625 at their facility. This settles EPA claims that the company violated EPCRA by failing to submit timely chemical reporting forms for ammonia, chromium, nickel and copper during the annual reporting of the Toxics Release Inventory. The ammonia detection and alarm system to be installed at the Southington facility will be integrated with emergency controls to automatically shut down the ammonia processes upon detecting certain concentrations of ammonia and will automatically notify emergency responders in the case of a release when the facility is unmanned or unable to respond to a release on its own. At the same time as the settlement, EPA also issued an order on consent in which the company agreed to conduct a formal analysis to identify hazards arising from its use of anhydrous ammonia, as required by the Clean Air Act’s General Duty of Clause, which applies to facilities where extremely hazardous substances such as ammonia are present (but not necessarily in amounts that would trigger more detailed RMP requirements). Conducting the ammonia process hazard analysis and installing the detection and alarm system will minimize and mitigate the potential for ammonia releases at the facility.

All the companies cooperated with EPA throughout the investigation process, and, since EPA’s inspections, all have taken concrete steps to reduce the risks of an accidental release of hazardous substances.

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