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Release Date: 07/19/1999
Contact Information: Amy Miller, EPA Press Office (617-918-1042)

BOSTON - In a settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, two New Bedford companies agreed this month to pay $13,367 each for failing to report the use and storage of large quantities of ammonia, as required by federal environmental law.

Maritime Terminal Inc. and Crystal Ice Company Inc. were both found in violation of the federal Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA) during EPA inspections last August. EPA-New England filed complaints against the companies in March and proposed penalties of $18,489 each. The reduced penalties reflect the quick settlement reached with the companies and their cooperation in resolving these actions.

Both companies were charged with: failing to alert the State Emergency Response Commission that the company is a user of ammonia and subject to emergency planning; failing to designate an emergency coordinator to the Local Emergency Planning Committee; failing to provide required data reports to state and local emergency officials; and failing to submit to state and local officials annual chemical inventory reports for 1995, 1996 and 1997.

Maritime was charged with these violations at two of its facilities, Maritime Terminal Inc. and Bridge Terminal Inc. Initially, EPA-New England proposed fining Maritime and Bridge separately. During negotiations, the agency agreed to consider the case under one penalty action since the facilities have the same owner and management and are located next to each other.

"We are glad that Crystal and Maritime acted quickly to pay their fines and correct their violations, said John P. DeVillars, EPA's New England Administrator. "Chemical inventory data is essential for local emergency planning in order to protect workers, nearby residents and emergency response personnel from potential chemical exposure."

Maritime Terminal and Bridge Terminal package seafood and operate as large cold storage warehouses. Crystal Ice makes ice and sells it to commercial enterprises. Each of the facilities was storing about 5,000 pounds of ammonia on site, 10 times the threshold for reporting.

The EPA inspections were done less than a month after New Bedford's Local Emergency Planning Committee invited these companies and 163 other New Bedford companies that use ammonia to a forum on how to meet the EPCRA requirements. Representatives from only eight companies came to the forum, planned with help from EPA. Crystal, Bridge and Maritime, three of the city's biggest ammonia users, were absent from the forum.

Ammonia, which is used as a coolant, is an extremely hazardous substance. It can cause severe burning and irritation to eyes, nose and respiratory system.