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EPA Takes Action Against Sacramento Food Distributor Following Chemical Waste Discharges

Release Date: 01/19/2010
Contact Information: Media Contact: Mary Simms, (415) 947-4270,

SAN FRANCISCO – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has taken action against Sacramento based Tony's Fine Foods in order to correct environmental violations and bring the company into compliance with federal law. Under the terms of a settlement Tony's Fine Foods has agreed to pay a $93,533 penalty.
In October 2008, Tony’s Fine Foods leaked approximately 360 gallons of anhydrous ammonia into the air from a pressure relief valve at its California Cold Logistics cold storage warehouse, located at 700 Jones Street, in Yuba City, Calif. The ammonia release resulted in the evacuation of four nearby schools and nearly 30 Yuba City residences.

“We’re thankful no one was seriously hurt,” said Daniel Meer, assistant director for the Superfund program in EPA’s Pacific Southwest region. “Failing to provide critical information to the appropriate authorities can diminish the community's ability to respond during an emergency.”

In January 2009, the facility again violated federal law by illegally discharging about 35 gallons of ammonia into a storm drain that discharges to Gilsizer Slough. The release was detected by residents several blocks away. When the fire department responded, the strong smell eventually led investigators to the California Cold Logistics facility. Dumping ammonia down a storm drain is prohibited under the federal Clean Water Act.

“The inadequate controls exercised by this facility resulted in unacceptable discharges of toxic pollutants to Gilsizer Slough, which flows to the Sutter Bypass and the Feather River," said Alexis Strauss, regional director of EPA's water division in San Francisco.

In both instances, Tony's Fine Foods failed to immediately notify authorities following their chemical releases. EPA inspectors visited the facility following the first release and provided facility representatives information on release reporting requirements.

The enforcement action addresses several violations of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act and the Clean Water Act. The proposed penalty under the Clean Water Act currently is available for public comment until January 21, 2010.
Following EPA’s involvement, the facility has achieved compliance with reporting requirements and completed operational improvements to prevent future discharges.

Exposure to ammonia can irritate the skin, eyes, and respiratory system. Lung damage and death may occur after exposure to very high concentrations of ammonia.

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