EPA alleges that on Sept. 10, 2002, at about 6:30 a.m., there was a release of 3,800 pounds of anhydrous ammonia at the facility. The release occurred when a refrigeration system pressure relief valve failed. A vapor cloud caused several businesses to be evacuated and delayed nearby railroad traffic. Some of the ammonia washed into storm water drains that flow into to the Menomonee River.
Anhydrous ammonia may be fatal if inhaled for prolonged periods of time. It causes burns to the skin and may cause irritation to the eyes, nose and throat.
Federal laws require facilities to immediately notify the National Response Center, state and local authorities about all anhydrous ammonia releases greater than 100 pounds. Though Kohl's reported the incident to
the Wisconsin State Emergency Response Commission 75 minutes after the release began, the NRC was not advised until 14 days later, on Sept. 24. The Milwaukee County
Local Emergency Planning Commission had not been notified as of Nov. 21, 2002 when EPA checked to see if the notification had been made. A written follow-up report, required as soon as practicable, was filed with the state and local agencies 90 days after the release.
Under federal emergency response laws, facilities cited may request a meeting with EPA within 30 days to discuss the allegations and the proposed penalty.