05 April 2013 18:09 [Source: ICIS news]
HOUSTON (ICIS)--US-based Tyson Foods has agreed to pay a $3.95m penalty to settle alleged violations of the Clean Air Act at 23 facilities in four Midwestern states the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on Friday.
The settlement is a result of eight separate incidents that occurred between 2006 and 2010 in which the EPA alleges Tyson allowed the accidental release of anhydrous ammonia at the facilities which resulted in property damage, multiple injuries and one fatality.
The EPA during the course of inspections found several incidents of noncompliance with the federal act’s regulations regarding chemical accident prevention provisions. Those violations included failure to follow industry standards to test or replace safety values, improperly located boilers and ammonia machinery as well as a failure to abide by the EPA’s Risk Management Program.
As part of the settlement, Tyson, the world’s largest processor of chicken and beef products, has agreed to conduct pipe-testing and third-party audits of its ammonia refrigeration systems. The facilities that are the source of the violations are subject to the stricter provisions of the Clean Air Act because its refrigeration systems each contain more than 10,000 pounds of ammonia. According to the EPA, these plants have a combined inventory of more than 1.7m pounds of the chemical.
“These studies have shown that ammonia refrigeration facilities have a higher accident rate than other processes. As a result, we focus a significant portion of our inspection resources on these high risk facilities. The vast majority of these accidents are preventable,” said Karl Brooks, EPA regional administrator.
Tyson officials said Friday that they agreed with the EPA findings that they did not meet the obligations as required by the federal act.
“We strive to operate our facilities responsibly, so after learning of EPA’s concerns, we immediately made improvements and cooperated with EPA officials throughout the process,” said Kevin Igli, Tyson senior vice president.
“We also agreed to develop a third-party audit system at the facilities involved to assure EPA these plants are in compliance with all aspects of our Risk Management Plan obligations. In fact, we expect this auditing system to become a model provision that EPA may require from other industrial users of anhydrous ammonia or other chemicals, including other agricultural and food companies.”
In addition to the penalty, Tyson has agreed to spend $300,000 on the purchase of ammonia related emergency response equipment for the fire departments that are located in the areas where the plants that were cited are currently operating.
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