EPA Region 5 recently settled an administrative complaint against Ventura Foods, Albert Lea, Minn., for alleged violations of federal laws on the reporting of a hazardous chemical release, as well as alleged failure to maintain required hazardous chemical records.
Under its agreement with EPA, the company will pay a $34,554 fine and complete environmental projects costing $128,905, for a total settlement of $163,459.
According to EPA, on Aug. 30, 1998, Ventura Foods failed to promptly report the release of an estimated 1,000 pounds to 1,500 pounds of ammonia into the air.
Federal laws require facilities to immediately notify the National Resource Center (NRC) and the state emergency response commission upon any release of ammonia above 100 pounds.
The release was reported to the NRC and the Minnesota Emergency Response Commission (MER) on Aug. 31, 1998, about 22 hours after the incident occurred.
Ventura Foods also failed to provide a written follow-up report to the MERC, 130 after the incident.
The company was also cited for failing to provide completed emergency and hazardous chemical inventory forms, for the storage of 8,600 pounds of ammonia, to the MERC and the Albert Lea fire Department for calendar years 1996 and 1997.
Under the terms of the settlement, Ventura Foods will conduct two environmental response projects:
- purchase and donate hazardous materials response equipment to the Albert Lea Fire Department at a cost of $30,915, and
- install and operate ammonia release detection systems at a cost of $97,900 at four of its facilities, located in Albert Lea; Birmingham, Ala.; St. Joseph, Mo.; and Saginaw, Texas.
Ammonia may be fatal if inhaled, causes burns to the skin and eyes and can lead to respiratory tract irritation and blindness.
Since 1989, EPA Region 5 has filed 222 separate complaints for hazardous chemical reporting violations, resulting in 209 settlements worth $4.98 million in total fines and $3.40 million in environmental projects.
by Virginia Sutcliffe