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EPA Seeks Penalty of $46,000 From Food Company with Facility in Ellington, Conn.
Release Date: 10/14/04
Contact: Peyton Fleming, EPA Press Office (617-918-1008)
For Immediate Release: Oct. 14, 2004 Release # 04-10-14
BOSTON - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced it is seeking a $46,408 penalty against Natural Country Farms for not immediately reporting a release of anhydrous ammonia from its juice packaging facility in Ellington, Conn. in violation of federal law.
According to the complaint, the Ellington plant released about 6,134 pounds of anhydrous ammonia on Oct. 14, 2003, which led to the evacuation of some 1,500 people within a half mile of the facility. Two elderly people were taken to the hospital for evaluation and ammonia concentrations of 150 parts per million were detected in the neighborhood after the release. The release triggered a major chemical emergency response operation that included state, local and federal government organizations.
According to EPA’s complaint, Natural Country Farms, headquartered in Akron, Ohio, failed to report the release to the National Response Center, in violation of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), and failed to notify state authorities, as required by the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA). Natural Country Farms is a subsidiary of Country Pure Foods Inc., also of Akron.
The complaint stems from a December 2003 investigation by EPA inspectors, who visited the Ellington plant to determine the cause of the chemical accident.
“Late notification of a toxic release to the state and federal authorities makes it much more difficult for public health and safety officials to respond effectively,” said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA’s New England Office. “Timely reporting is especially important for facilities such as this one, where the large quantities of toxic materials stored and the facility’s close proximity to a population center vastly increase the risk when releases occur.”
The Ellington facility uses a refrigeration system that contains anhydrous ammonia.
Under CERCLA and EPCRA, any release of more than 100 pounds of anhydrous ammonia requires immediate notification to the National Pollution Response Center, as well as to state and local emergency planning offices. Ammonia can burn the skin and vapors can cause irritation of the eyes and respiratory tract. High concentrations of ammonia are poisonous and could be fatal.
The EPCRA law provides citizens with a “right to know” about chemicals in their communities. It require facilities to immediately notify emergency responders of accidental releases so that they can evaluate the need for a response action. Accidental releases of hazardous chemicals have the potential to cause acute and tragic adverse effects. Without timely knowledge of a release, emergency responders going to chemical emergencies cannot do their job – that is, work with industry to prevent or mitigate actual or potential harm to human health and the environment following a release of a hazardous chemical.
Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA)
Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) EPA HQ