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StarKist Paying CWA Penalty, Improving American Samoa Plant

EPA and the Justice Department announced that Starkist Samoa Co., which owns and operates a tuna processing facility on the island of Tutuila in the U.S. Territory of American Samoa, will pay a $6.3 milliion civil penalty for exceeding Clean Water Act permit limits and other violations. Tutuila is the largest and most populous of the five islands in American Samoa, and the company is a wholly owned subsidiary of StarKist Co. The facility processes and cans tuna for human consumption and processes fish byproducts into fishmeal and fish oil.

According to EPA, the violations alleged in the government's complaint include exceeding the permit limits, resulting in inadequately treated wastewater being discharged into Pago Pago Harbor, and also failing to maintain proper containment for its above ground storage tanks or properly implement a Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure plan as required by the Clean Water Act. StarKist also allegedly violated the General Duty Clause of the Clean Air Act, Section 112(r), when it failed to ensure proper operation and maintenance of the facility's ammonia, butane, and chlorine systems; the company self-disclosed, under EPA's Audit Policy, violations of the CAA's National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants, the used oil provisions of RCRA, and the community notification requirements of EPCRA.

StarKist has agreed to make improvements to the facility to ensure compliance with its CWA permit, including implementation of interim CWA compliance measures, upgrades to its wastewater treatment plant, and upgrades to its oil storage tanks and secondary containment to prevent discharges from reaching Pago Pago Harbor, and has made improvements to its facility to prevent the release of hazardous substances and improve the safety of its workers and the surrounding community, EPA announced. It said StarKist upgraded its refrigeration system to safeguard against releases of ammonia, discontinued using chlorine gas to disinfect tuna thaw water, and discontinued filling butane tanks at the facility and, to address the self-disclosed violations, StarKist instituted a used oil program, applied for proper permits under the CAA NESHAP requirements, and filed the appropriate EPCRA forms with local responders.

And the company has agreed to develop and implement an environmental management system, perform annual multimedia environmental compliance audits, and conduct environmental training for employees.

EPA said it estimates upon full implementation of the wastewater treatment system upgrades, StarKist's discharge of pollutants to Pago Pago Harbor will be reduced by this much:

  • Ammonia: 500,795 pounds
  • Total nitrogen: 2,056,775 pounds
  • Total phosphorus: 553,340 pounds
  • Oil and grease: 2,845,540 pounds
  • Total suspended solids: 8,168,335 pounds

"Today's agreement will help prevent hazardous releases at the StarKist facility, protect workers and the local community, and reduce pollution discharged into Pago Pago Harbor by more than 13 million pounds each year," said Alexis Strauss, acting regional administrator with EPA's Pacific Southwest Region. "Working with our partners at American Samoa EPA, we will monitor the company’s progress toward full compliance with all federal environmental rules."

The settlement has been filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania and is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.

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