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EPA Settles with Norquick Distributing for Chemical Release Reporting

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 5 has settled 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 company has agreed to pay a $162,625 fine and complete a number of environmental projects.

In the complaint, which was filed in May 2002, EPA alleged that on January 12, 2000, at 7 a.m., 3,900 pounds of anhydrous ammonia was released from Norquick's refrigeration warehouse at 8440 N. Haggerty Road in Canton, Mich. The release occurred when a valve malfunctioned. Norquick employees were evacuated at the time of the incident. EPA computer modeling indicates that the ammonia plume may have traveled at least two miles from the plant.

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 about 11:45 a.m. 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. Also, Norquick did not provide required hazardous chemical inventory forms to state and local authorities or 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.

In addition to the fine, Norquick agreed to complete environmental projects valued at $70,310. These include a series of in-plant safety upgrades, such as installation of a new exhaust ventilation system in the ammonia storage room and reprogramming the computerized refrigeration system to enable a complete shutdown in the event of a release. The company will also donate $23,500 in new emergency response equipment to the Canton Township Fire Department.

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.

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