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EPA fines seed supplier $16,575 for failing to notify authorities of a hazardous chemical release

Release Date: 9/24/2003
Contact Information: Wendy L. Chavez, (415) 947-4248

SAN FRANCISCO -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today fined an agricultural seed supplier $16,575 for failing to immediately report to the proper authorities its release of a hazardous chemical at its Chandler, Ariz. facility.

The Delta and Pine Land Company's facility, located within the Gila River Indian Community, failed to immediately notify the National Response Center on Dec. 21, 2002 after 45,000 pounds of sulfuric acid was released into the soil. The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act requires companies to report any releases of sulfuric acid over 1,000 pounds.

"Failing to immediately report hazardous releases weakens the EPA's ability to respond to and assist first responders in handling chemical releases in their communities," said Keith Takata, the Superfund Division director for the EPA's Pacific Southwest office. "Companies working with toxic chemicals have a responsibility to their employees and the surrounding neighborhood to report these releases."

The facility uses sulfuric acid to process cotton seed. A leak in the holding tank resulted in the release of approximately 95 - 100 percent of the facility's sulfuric acid.

The Gila River Indian Community police department discovered the sulfuric acid release and notified the community fire department and the company's site manager. However, the company did not notify the National Response Center until Dec. 23.

Sulfuric acid is poisonous and corrosive and if inhaled, severe damage to the mucous membranes will occur. On contact with the skin, severe burns can result. Sulfuric acid is highly reactive and reacts violently with water and organic materials, which may result in fire.

Federal law requires immediate notification of a reportable release in order for emergency response teams to evaluate the nature and extent of a hazardous substance release, prevent exposure and minimize consequences. Once notified, the National Response Center engages federal support of state and local emergency response activities.

For information about Community Right-To-Know, Superfund and hazardous substance release notification requirements call 1-800-424-9946.