EPA Settles with Fleming Companies for Chemical Release Violations

The Environmental Protection Agency Region 5 settled an administrative complaint with Fleming Companies Inc. for violation of federal laws on the reporting of a hazardous chemical release. The company will be assessed a $90,000 civil penalty and agreed to complete additional compliance activities.

Unfortunately, the penalty will be included as a claim by EPA in Fleming's pending bankruptcy proceeding.

In its complaint, EPA alleged that on August 15, 2000, at about 6:30 p.m., Fleming's food distribution facility at on Marshall Street in Minneapolis accidently released about 750 pounds of anhydrous ammonia when a refrigeration system malfunctioned. The National Response Center was not notified for more than 24 hours. As of March 16, 2001, the Minnesota Emergency Response Commission still had not been notified of the release.

In addition, a written follow-up report, required as soon as possible after the event, was never filed with the National Response Center or state emergency response commission.

In addition to the fine, Fleming must also complete an emergency preparedness drill and provide evidence to EPA to demonstrate safeguards are in place to prevent future late submissions of appropriate chemical inventory forms and record-keeping.

Federal laws require facilities to immediately notify the National Response Center, as well as the state emergency response commission, about any anhydrous ammonia release larger than 100 pounds. 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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