Failure to Report Ammonia Release Quickly Results in $35,000 Fine

Pacific Seafood Group will pay a $35,000 penalty for its alleged failure to report in a timely manner the release of ammonia from the company’s warehouse and distribution center in Mukilteo, Wash.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said the settlement is related to an ammonia release estimated at 210 pounds on May 29, 2009. The Rane Company, which is located next door to Pacific Seafood, notified the Mukilteo Fire Department when its employees detected a strong ammonia odor coming from Pacific Seafood.

The cause of the ammonia leak was due to a pressure relief valve that had opened due to high pressure from an incorrect setting. That valve has been replaced and all other valves checked for correct sizing. No injuries were reported. Ammonia is a colorless gas that can cause severe burns to skin, eyes, throat, and lungs, and with high enough exposure, death.

In the agreement, EPA alleges that Pacific Seafood failed to immediately notify emergency response entities after the ammonia release occurred and they failed to submit a completed Emergency and Hazardous Chemical Inventory Form. The federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act require that releases of hazardous substances such as ammonia above a reportable quantity be immediately reported to federal, state and local emergency responders.

Pacific Seafood distributes fresh frozen seafood, beef, pork, and poultry products. They use anhydrous ammonia as a refrigerant.

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