SEATTLE — In a settlement announced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Oregon Ice Cream Co. has agreed to make safety improvements and upgrade its refrigeration equipment to prevent ammonia refrigerant releases at its manufacturing facility in Eugene, Oregon. The company will also pay $55,000 in penalties for multiple violations of federal safety rules and risk management program requirements designed to prevent chemical emergencies.
“EPA’s Risk Management Program is designed to protect the public from accidental releases of extremely hazardous chemicals,” said Ed Kowalski, director of EPA’s Pacific Northwest Office of Compliance and Enforcement. “Our federal rules, by themselves, will not guarantee safety from chemical accidents. Companies that use toxic chemicals need to take responsibility to prevent, prepare for, and respond to emergencies.”
In 2011, EPA inspectors found that the Oregon Ice Cream facility failed to have an adequate risk management plan or proper safety equipment including leak detection and ventilation on its refrigeration system, which at the time was reported to contain over 10,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia. The company’s failure to meet industry safety standards for safe operation and maintenance of its ammonia refrigeration equipment and its failure to install a leak detection system or emergency ventilation were violations of the federal Clean Air Act’s Risk Management Plan rules.
Anhydrous ammonia is toxic and may be harmful if inhaled at high concentrations, resulting in severe respiratory injuries and possibly death. If anhydrous ammonia is released to the air from a leak in a pressurized refrigeration system, the risk of exposure increases since larger quantities of the toxic chemical have the potential for rapid release into the air.
Without proper safety plans and equipment in place, Oregon Ice Cream could have put its workers and the surrounding community at serious risk from a large ammonia release. To correct the violations, the company has upgraded its refrigeration equipment to meet industry safety standards, installed leak detection systems, upgraded its emergency relieve valve system, installed a proper ventilation system, and improved overall safety and maintenance procedures to better prevent, detect, and safely respond to an accidental ammonia leak.
For more information about EPA’s Risk Management Program, visit www.epa.gov/rmp.
Publication date: 4/14/2016