News Releases from Region 01
Hanover, N.H. Army Lab Fined and Takes Steps to Improve Safety under EPA Settlement
BOSTON - The Army Corps of Engineers has agreed to pay $85,059 to settle EPA claims that it violated federal regulations meant to protect the public from hazardous chemicals at a research lab in Hanover, N.H., and it has taken action to improve the safety of its operations at the facility.
EPA alleged that the Army Corps did not comply with "Risk Management Plan" regulations contained in the federal Clean Air Act in its handling of anhydrous ammonia at its Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory in Hanover. This facility contains about 14,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia in a closed-loop refrigeration process. Risk Management Plan (RMP) requirements help to protect communities, workers, and emergency responders from accidental releases of hazardous chemicals, including ammonia.
"Failing to follow chemical accident prevention requirements can put people and the environment at risk," said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA's New England office. "Hazardous substances like anhydrous ammonia must be properly handled to ensure the local community and first responders do not face unacceptable risks. This is why facilities need to have precautions in place to prevent accidental releases of these chemicals."
EPA's Risk Management Plan program requires companies that use or store certain amounts of very hazardous chemicals to develop and implement a program to prevent accidental releases of those chemicals and to reduce any consequences from an accidental release. The Army Corps was subject to RMP requirements because of its use of anhydrous ammonia, an extremely hazardous substance.
Specifically, EPA alleged that the Army Corp failed to: comply with safety information requirements; adequately identify, evaluate, and control hazards; comply with operating procedures requirements; comply with mechanical integrity requirements; comply with compliance audit requirements; and have an adequate emergency response program.
In addition to typical refrigeration equipment, the facility had an emergency ammonia dump system on the outside of the building from which ammonia could be discharged during an emergency to a nearby storm water detention pond that drains into the Connecticut River. Because of its potential to harm the river, the Army Corps will be disabling this outdated technology and safeguarding the facility through other means.
This case stems from an August 2013 inspection of the lab. In Sept. 2014, EPA ordered the Army Corps to correct the identified deficiencies of its risk management program. In late November, the Army Corps submitted to EPA a work plan and schedule for addressing the deficiencies. The Army Corps carried out the plan on schedule, except for three items that the Army Corps will finish addressing under the terms of the settlement. In addressing some of the identified deficiencies, the Army Corps has begun a massive retooling of its ventilation system that will cost more than $650,000 and goes beyond the requirements of EPA's order.
Ammonia is corrosive to the skin, eyes, and lungs. Exposure at certain concentrations is immediately dangerous to life and health. Ammonia is also flammable at higher concentrations and can explode if released in an enclosed space with a source of ignition.
- Risk Management Plans: www.epa.gov/rmp
- EPA oversight of Anhydrous Ammonia at Refrigeration Facilities: www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-02/documents/112renforcementalert.pdf