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EPA Wants Norquick to Distribute $341,265 in Fines

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 5 filed an administrative complaint against Norquick Distributing Co. Inc. for violation of federal laws on the reporting of a hazardous chemical release and two related emergency preparedness regulations.

The agency proposed a $341,265 fine.

EPA alleges that on Jan. 12, 2000, at 7 a.m., 3,900 pounds of anhydrous ammonia were released from Norquick's refrigeration warehouse in Canton, Mich. The release occurred when a valve malfunctioned and broke while being repaired.

EPA computer modeling indicates that the ammonia plume would have traveled at least two miles from the plant at the time of the incident. Although Norquick employees were evacuated, the company failed to notify residents living a few hundred feet of the facility. 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 and state and local authorities about any ammonia release larger than 100 pounds. The company did not notify the NRC until nearly five hours after the release. In addition, Norquick never called the Michigan Emergency Response Commission or local authorities and required incident follow-up reports were never provided to state and local authorities. The agency also charges Norquick failed to provided required hazardous chemical inventory forms to state and local authorities and the local fire department for 1997 to 1999. The investigation also determined that Norquick failed to submit a required risk management plan to EPA by June 1999.

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