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Reser's Fine Foods, Inc., to Pay Civil Penalty for Failing to Timely Report Ammonia Leak to Emergency Response Centers

Release Date: 09/14/2009
Contact Information: Chris Whitley, 913-551-7394,

Environmental News


(Kansas City, Kan., Sept. 14, 2009) - The owner of a Topeka, Kan., food processing plant has agreed to pay a $13,460 civil penalty to the United States for failing to make timely notifications to local, state and federal emergency response authorities about an accidental leak of anhydrous ammonia at the plant in December 2007.

Reser's Fine Foods, Inc., headquartered in Beaverton, Ore., has also agreed to purchase $22,679 worth of emergency response equipment for the Topeka Fire Department, as part of a settlement agreement filed today in Kansas City, Kan.

On December 19, 2007, a 1,500-pound release of anhydrous ammonia occurred at Reser's Topeka facility, located at 3167 SE 10th Street, causing more than 100 employees to evacuate, and sending a local firefighter to the hospital for treatment of skin irritation.

Anhydrous ammonia is a colorless gas that can cause severe burns to the skin, eyes, throat and lungs. At high levels of exposure, it can be fatal. Reser's food processing plant stored and used the gas in its refrigeration systems.

According to a consent agreement filed today, Reser's was legally required to immediately report the anhydrous ammonia release to the National Response Center, to the State Emergency Response Commission, and to the Local Emergency Planning Committee. However, investigation showed the National Response Center was contacted 50 minutes after the release, the Local Emergency Planning Committee was contacted 25 hours and 10 minutes after the release, and the State Emergency Response Commission was never contacted.

"Ensuring the public's safety and preventing chemical accidents are top priorities for EPA," said Acting Regional Administrator William Rice. "Accidental chemical releases carry the potential for public disaster, which is why the law makes it clear that the proper authorities be notified immediately when such incidents occur. EPA is committed to enforcing the law so that human health and the environment are protected."
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