News | October 20, 2014

Chemical Company Takes Steps To Make Fall River, Mass. Community Safer Following EPA Enforcement

A Fall River, Mass. company has taken significant steps to make its chemical manufacturing, warehouse, and distribution facility safer following an Administrative Compliance Order issued by EPA in March 2014 that identified several dangerous conditions arising from the company’s use, storage and handling of chlorine and ammonia.

In a related settlement agreement filed by EPA, Borden also agreed to pay civil penalties of $114,118 to resolve EPA claims that the facility violated federal Clean Air Act requirements to prevent chemical releases at the facility.

EPA alleged that Borden & Remington Corp. violated Clean Air Act requirements that spell out chemical accident prevention provisions by failing to prepare and submit a Risk Management Plan (RMP) that included all covered ammonia and chlorine processes at its facility, and by failing to comply with process safety information and operating procedures requirements relating to its use, storage, and handling of ammonia and chlorine. Borden also allegedly violated the Clean Air Act’s General Duty Clause by storing incompatible chemicals so close together that a spill or release of one chemical could result in a violent chemical reaction with another chemical, potentially releasing toxic gases or causing a fire or explosion.

“The chemicals manufactured at Borden & Remington’s Fall River plant, including sodium hypochlorite, are important for public health because they are used for disinfecting drinking water, wastewater, and swimming pools,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “That said, very dangerous chemicals, such as chlorine, are used to manufacture these disinfectants, so managing their risks is critical. The safety improvements the company is making should lower the risk of an ammonia or chlorine release in Fall River and better prepare emergency responders to address any mishap if one should occur.”

Exposure to chlorine and ammonia present significant health risks because each chemical is severely corrosive to the eyes, skin, and lungs, and exposure to high concentrations of either chemical can be fatal. Inhalation of chlorine at lower concentrations can cause lung inflammation, fluid in the lungs, chest pain, and vomiting. Inhalation of lower concentrations of ammonia can cause irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat and, if exposure continues or increases, can lead to narrowing of the throat and respiratory distress. Skin contact with ammonia can cause extensive damage by corrosive burns. Ammonia 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.

The Clean Air Act’s Risk Management Plan requirements and its General Duty Clause both help prevent accidental releases of substances that can cause serious harm to the public and the environment from short-term exposures, and reduce the severity of releases that do occur. A company that fails to take these steps can leave the public and environment at risk from accidental releases.

This case stemmed from an EPA inspection of the facility in May 2012. Since the inspection, Borden has taken numerous steps to come into compliance with the Clean Air Act and reduce the risk of an accidental release at the facility, including by updating its RMP to include all covered ammonia and chlorine processes at the facility (previously, rail car storage was not covered); reducing the amount of hazardous chemicals on site and eliminating the use of some hazardous chemicals entirely; restricting public access to the plant; moving railcars of chemicals to more protected areas for storage; implementing design changes and work practices to reduce the likelihood of an accidental release; refurbishing tanks, piping, supports, and electrical equipment that had been compromised by severe corrosion; separating incompatible chemicals inside the company’s warehouse; and adding containment berms designed to limit the spread of potential spills.

As part of its settlement with EPA, Borden certified that it has corrected the dangerous conditions identified by EPA and is now operating its facility in compliance with the Clean Air Act’s RMP requirements and General Duty Clause. Borden cooperated with EPA in promptly correcting the violations following the issuance of the Administrative Compliance Order and in reaching a quick settlement.

More information:

  • Risk Management Plans http://www2.epa.gov/rmp
  • General Duty Clause Fact Sheet http://www2.epa.gov/rmp/general-duty-clause-fact-sheet
  • Report an environmental violation http://www2.epa.gov/enforcement/report-environmental-violations

SOURCE: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency