Ice-cream manufacturer, HP Hood LLC, has agreed to pay a penalty of $115,849 to settle claims by the US Environmental Protection Agency that it violated federal laws regulating the handling and storage of ammonia.
As part of the settlement, the company has also agreed to complete system safety audits of its six facilities nationwide that have requirements under the risk management program (RMP) regulation.
EPA New England regional administrator, David W. Cash, said when a company falls short in meeting its safety obligations, it puts workers, local communities, and the environment at risk.
“With the company operating facilities across the country, we have a duty to call out a lack of accountability when we see it,” he said.
"Ensuring safety and management practices of hazardous substances is key. This case serves as a reminder to companies that accountability and compliance is important.”
An EPA inspection revealed that HP Hood failed to document that its ammonia refrigeration equipment complied with recognized and generally applicable good engineering practices in violation of the Clean Air Act.
This included issues like missing ammonia alarms, inadequate labelling of critical equipment, and failure to adhere to engineering best practices in equipment installation.
In addition, HP Hood failed to comply with the mechanical integrity requirements of the Clean Air Act's chemical accident prevention regulations by allegedly failing to sufficiently conduct piping inspections.
Instances of damaged pipe insulation with potential safety risks and a minor anhydrous ammonia leak from a valve were documented.
These findings highlighted the need for improved safety measures and adherence to industry standards at this facility, and at the other five HP Hood LLC facilities with risk management plan (RMP) requirements nationwide. As result, EPA negotiated with HP Hood LLC to pay a penalty, as well as create a schedule for conducting system safety audits at its six RMP facilities nationwide.
The penalty also includes a separate EPA assessment regarding a recent ammonia release from this company, caused by a forklift impact.
Impacts to equipment have caused several accidents at facilities owned by other companies located in New England.
Anhydrous ammonia is an efficient refrigerant with low global warming potential, but it must be handled with care because it is highly corrosive to the skin, eyes, and lungs.
Exposure to 300 parts per million is immediately dangerous to life and health. Ammonia is also flammable at certain concentrations and can explode if it is released in an enclosed space with a source of ignition present, or if a vessel containing anhydrous ammonia is exposed to fire.