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EPA seeks gas cylinder removal costs from American Samoa shipping agents

Release Date: 2/15/2005
Contact Information: Dean Higuchi, (808) 541-2711

HONOLULU The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is asking three shipping agents and an owner of a warehouse in American Samoa to reimburse the agency $140,623 for its removal and disposal of old ammonia and freon gas cylinders stored at a warehouse in Lauli'i Village.

The shipping agents for Chicken of the Sea, Tri-Marine, FCF Fishery and the owner of the Lauli'i Warehouse, are being held by the EPA as responsible for the gas cylinders. Those involved will need to determine the specific amount that each is responsible for and have 30 days to pay the removal costs to the EPA.

"Shipping agents and companies need to be responsible for the proper disposal of their gas cylinders to protect people and the environment from exposure to chemicals," said Peter Guria, chief of the EPA Pacific Southwest Region's Emergency Response Section. "The exposure risk was eliminated for Lauli'i Village through a team effort with the American Samoa Fire Department's HazMat Team, led by Chief O'Brien, and Dawn Ala'ilima and the Territorial Emergency Management Coordinating Office."

In April 2004, the EPA and American Samoa hazardous materials response teams removed and neutralized more than 35 deteriorating cylinders of anhydrous ammonia, eliminating the threat of an ammonia release in Lauli'i Village. Many of the cylinders may have been discarded by shipping agents that stop in Pago Pago Harbor.

Anhydrous ammonia is used as a refrigerant by most tuna fishing vessels. Exposure to ammonia may cause severe burns or throat irritation and in extreme cases, blindness or lung damage can occur.

The EPA's Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act regulations require that responsible parties may be held liable for all costs in responding to any release or threatened release of hazardous substances. Responsible parties include current and former owners or operators of a facility, persons who arranged for treatment or disposal of hazardous substances, and persons who accepted hazardous substances for transport.