EPA Fines Fertilizer Distributors for Not Updating Risk-Management Plans

Two Washington ammonia fertilizer distributors have agreed to pay more than $33,000 for failing to update their plans for preventing chemical releases at eight facilities throughout Washington.

AG Link Inc. will pay $13,521 and Colfax Grange Supply Co. Inc. will pay $19,986 to settle alleged violations of the risk management provisions of section 112(r) of the federal Clean Air Act.

In October 2009, EPA discovered that AG Link, Colfax and their eight facilities located in the Washington cities of Almira, Davenport, Edwall, Coulee City, Reardan, Colfax, Wilbur, and Steptoe failed to update their risk-management practices at least every five years as the Clean Air Act requires. The facilities store more than 10,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia, which exceeds the threshold quantity that triggers federal planning requirements.

Anhydrous ammonia is a chemical used in refrigeration and agriculture. Ammonia is a colorless gas that can cause severe burns to skin, eyes, throat, and lungs, and with high enough exposure, death.

According to Wally Moon, EPA’s prevention team leader in its Seattle Emergency Response program, having a solid prevention program in place can help a facility keep a dangerous situation under control if a workplace accident occurs.

“Companies with large amounts of ammonia on-site must have a solid, comprehensive leak-prevention program in place,” Moon said. “They have a responsibility to protect workers, emergency responders and the community to make sure a serious accident doesn’t occur.”

As a result of this enforcement action, AG Link and Colfax have corrected their violations and will pay more than $33,000.

The required risk management plans consists of:

  • Identifying hazards;
  • Maintenance of equipment;
  • Training of operators; and
  • Emergency response plan.