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Multistar Industries Named in Complaint for Clean Air Act and Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-know Act Violations

Release Date: 4/15/2004
Contact Information: Calvin Terada
(206) 553-4141

April 14, 2004

    U.S. EPA has filed a civil administrative complaint, including a $20,000 proposed penalty, against Multistar Industries, of Othello, Washington. The Complaint alleges that Multistar failed to file a Risk Management Plan and provide annual inventories of hazardous chemicals to the local fire department, State Emergency Response Commission and Local Emergency Planning Committee, as required under federal law. Multistar operates a bulk anhydrous ammonia distribution facility, which supplies anhydrous ammonia to customers for refrigeration and agricultural purposes.

    Ammonia arrives at the facility by railcar and is stored on site in amounts between 40,000 and 360,000 pounds. The facility is located near homes and businesses; residents and employees are at risk in the event of a release of ammonia from the facility.

    Facilities that handle large quantities of ammonia are required to file “Risk Management Plans” with EPA and file timely reports with local fire districts and state and local emergency planning and preparedness groups. If there is an accidental or other release or spill at the facility, good reporting practices help ensure that local responders won’t be jeopardized by unknown substances when they enter the premises. The information is also used to make decisions regarding the possible evacuation of surrounding populations in the event of an accidental release of ammonia.

    Because Multistar certified to EPA that ammonia quantities at the facility fluctuate between 40,000 and 360,000 pounds and have been on-site in amounts over 10,000 pounds every month since June 1999, Multistar was required to submit an Risk Management Plan by June 21, 1999. EPA did not receive Multistar's Risk Management Plan by that date. When Multistar finally submitted a plan – in February, 2004 – EPA determined that it was incomplete and inadequate.

    EPA further alleges that Multistar failed to submit required hazardous chemical inventory reports to the State Emergency Response Commission, Local Emergency Planning Committee, and local fire department for the years 2001 and 2002, in violation of the federal Emergency Planning Community Right-to-Know Act.

    “It’s easy to scoff at these as ‘paperwork’ violations," says EPA’s John Iani, “but in today’s world, being strictly accountable when handling large volumes of extremely hazardous chemicals is very serious. Responsible companies make it their business to know the law and ensure compliance at their facilities.”

    Although EPA normally proposes much larger penalties for these types of violations, EPA proposed a reduced penalty based on its evaluation of Multistar's ability to pay such an amount. After considering the gravity and duration of the violations, as well as a host of other factors at the facility, EPA proposed a $20,000 penalty, based upon Multistar’s inability to pay. Following receipt of the Complaint, Multistar has 30 days to file an Answer and request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. They can also request a settlement conference with EPA to discuss the Complaint and proposed penalty.