EPA Fines Oregon Freeze Dry for Failing to Report Ammonia Release

Oregon Freeze Dry Inc. will pay the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency $3,323 for its failure to report an estimated 422 pounds of anhydrous ammonia released at its food freeze-dryer facility in Albany, Ore.

In addition to the penalty, the company agrees to spend at least $19,435 to purchase and install an ammonia detection and alarm system and a remote and automatic shutdown valve system that would activate in the event of a release.

On November 22, 2009, the Oregon Freeze Dry facility released approximately 422 pounds of ammonia into the environment at its facility located at 525 25th Ave. SW in Albany, Ore., according to the EPA settlement. The facility is the largest diversified food freeze dryer in the world and uses large quantities of anhydrous ammonia as a refrigerant at its facility.

According to Edward Kowalski, director of EPA’s Office of Compliance and Enforcement in Seattle, these cases are about protecting workers, emergency responders and the community.

“When unintended chemical releases occur, every minute counts if it is an emergency,” said EPA’s Kowalski. “Emergency responders need to be notified promptly to react effectively.”

The leak occurred due to an improperly fitted pipe flange causing the release of anhydrous ammonia. EPA alleges that Oregon Freeze Dry failed to immediately notify local and state agencies about the release. While no injuries were reported at the time of the incident, ammonia is a pungent, toxic gas that attacks skin, eyes, throat, and lungs and can cause serious injury or death.

The ammonia release and the failure to notify appropriate agencies are violations of the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA).

SOURCE: U.S. EPA

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