One of the largest food production companies in the world has agreed to resolve violations of EPA’s Risk Management Program (RMP), Clean Air Act Section 112(r), 40 CFR Part 68, stemming from failures associated with its storage and management of the refrigerant anhydrous ammonia. As part of a federal Consent Decree currently subject to public comment until May 10, 2013, Tyson Foods, Inc., is agreeing to pay a $3.95 million civil penalty and fund a $300,000 Supplement Environmental Project (SEP) through the purchase of emergency response equipment.
In addition to the monetary component, EPA is requiring Tyson to conduct third-party audits of its RMP compliance at all 23 of its facilities in EPA Region 7 states (Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska). In addition, Tyson has agreed to perform non-destructive testing of certain piping used in its refrigeration systems. The non-destructive testing is intended to identify piping that was partly responsible for some of the anhydrous ammonia releases.
EPA’s action comes as a result of a series of release incidents between 2006 and 2010 involving property damage, injuries, and one fatality. Specific EPA allegations include:
- Failure to follow recognized and generally accepted good engineering practices (RAGAGEP) including the testing and replacement of safety relief valves;
- Inadequate Operating Procedures;
- Deficiencies with Mechanical Integrity (MI);
- Insufficient Process Safety Information (PSI) including outdated piping and instrument diagrams (P&IDs); and
- Failure to complete Incident Investigations as required by the regulations.
Anhydrous ammonia is frequently used as a refrigerant in food production, distribution, and warehousing operations. In addition, it serves as a common farm fertilizer sold by farm supply companies, farm cooperatives (co-ops), and related agricultural businesses. In particular, companies that store more than 10,000 lbs. of anhydrous ammonia are required to comply with the RMP regulations and OSHA’s Process Safety Management (PSM) program.
Businesses with commercial refrigeration systems that use and store the refrigerant anhydrous ammonia, such as cold storage, retail grocers, wholesale food distribution, and related warehousing and transportation companies, continue to face enforcement scrutiny from EPA regarding RMP.
Spencer Fane’s Andrew Brought frequently presents on topics associated with chemical accident prevention and preparation including EPA’s RMP Program, OSHA’s PSM Program, and OSHA’s general duty clause. A copy of Mr. Brought’s presentation on the Clean Air Act 112(r) RMP Enforcement to the Kansas City Chapter of the Air and Waste Management Association can be found here.