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EPA settles with Del Monte Fresh Produce for ammonia release

Christian Fernsby |
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a settlement with Del Monte Fresh Produce (West Coast) Inc. for violations of federal chemical safety and reporting requirements following an ammonia release at its storage and distribution facility located in Sanger, California.

Del Monte, one of the world’s largest distributers of fresh produce, will pay a $80,000 civil penalty and spend approximately $110,000 to reduce the risk of chemical accidents at its facility.

EPA inspected the facility after a release of more than 24,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia at the facility in December 2016.

During the inspection, EPA found violations of the Clean Air Act’s Risk Management Plan regulations, including deficiencies in the plant’s hazard assessment, mechanical integrity program, compliance audits, and emergency response program.

EPA inspectors also found that the company failed to immediately notify the National Response Center and the California Office of Emergency Services as soon as it knew of the release, in violation of the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act and Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act.

Proper implementation of a risk management plan helps facilities that store large amounts of regulated hazardous substances prevent and prepare for chemical accidents.

Del Monte’s industrial refrigeration system uses large quantities of anhydrous ammonia, a toxic chemical highly corrosive to skin, eyes and lungs.

This case is part of EPA’s National Compliance Initiative to reduce risks of accidental releases at anhydrous ammonia refrigeration facilities.

Under the terms of the settlement, the company will also install two new pumps to reduce potential leaks and a new control system for its anhydrous ammonia refrigeration system, with automated controls and notification system.

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