EPA Region 5 filed a complaint against Illinois-American Water Co. of Peoria, Ill., for violation of federal laws on the reporting of hazardous chemical release.
EPA proposed a $168,488 fine.
The agency alleges that on July 12, 1998, at 11:20 a.m., the facility failed to promptly report a 350-pound release of chlorine when a pipe developed a leak and chlorine vapors escaped from the building.
One firefighter was taken to a hospital and released as result of the incident.
Chlorine is a compressed gas that may be fatal if inhaled for long periods of time. It causes burns to the eyes, nose and mouth, and may react explosively with common substances such as ammonia, turpentine and hydrogen.
Federal law requires facilities to immediately notify the National Response Center, as well as the state emergency response commission and the local emergency planning committee about any chlorine release larger than 10 pounds.
A written follow-up report to the state and local authorities is required as soon as practicable after the release.
The incident was reported to the state emergency response commission the next day, more than 20 hours after the release.
The facility notified the National Response Center on Aug. 4, 1998, 23 days after the release, and the local authority was never notified.
"Releases of hazardous material can pose a serious threat to public health and the environment," said regional Superfund Director William Muno. "Notifications of releases must happen in a timely manner so emergency responders know what they are confronting when they arrive at the scene of an incident."
Under federal emergency response laws, facilities cited may request a meeting with EPA within 30 days to discuss or contest a proposed penalty.
by Virginia Foran