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LENEXA, KAN. – (NOV. 5, 2021) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will collect a $52,221 penalty from Postville, Iowa, fertilizer distributor Farmers Union Cooperative to resolve alleged violations of the federal Clean Air Act’s Risk Management Plan Rule.
According to EPA, the company stores 457,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia, a regulated toxic substance, and failed to comply with regulations intended to protect workers and the surrounding community from accidental releases of regulated substances.
After reviewing Farmers Union Cooperative’s facility records, EPA determined that the company failed to update its plans for preventing the release of anhydrous ammonia and responding to a release. Violations also included the company’s failure to update a hazard review, failure to maintain operating procedures, and failure to perform and maintain compliance audits. In response to EPA’s findings, Farmers Union Cooperative took the necessary steps to return the facility to compliance.
Anhydrous ammonia presents a significant health hazard because it is corrosive to the skin, eyes and lungs. High levels of exposure may lead to choking and death.
The Clean Air Act’s Risk Management Plan Rule regulations require facilities that use regulated toxic and/or flammable substances to develop a Risk Management Plan which identifies the potential effects of a chemical accident, identifies steps a facility is taking to prevent an accident, and spells out emergency response procedures should an accident occur. These plans provide valuable information to local fire, police, and emergency response personnel to prepare for and respond to chemical emergencies in their community.
EPA has found that many regulated facilities are not adequately managing the risks that they pose or ensuring the safety of their facilities in a way that is sufficient to protect surrounding communities. Approximately 150 catastrophic accidents occur each year at regulated facilities. These accidents result in fatalities, injuries, significant property damage, evacuations, sheltering in place, or environmental damage. Many more accidents with lesser effects also occur, demonstrating a clear risk posed by these facilities.
Reducing risks from accidental releases of hazardous substances at industrial and chemical facilities is a top priority for EPA, which identified this goal as one of seven National Compliance Initiatives in 2019. For more information, visit: www.epa.gov/enforcement/national-compliance-initiatives.
For more information about EPA’s Risk Management Plan Rule, visit: www.epa.gov/rmp.
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