Bakery Facilities Settle Safety Case

Monday, June 27, 2016 @ 11:06 AM gHale

A wholesale bakery and distribution company with facilities in Chelsea and Lawrence, MA, will purchase equipment for emergency responders and pay a cash penalty, settling allegations by the EPA the company violated federal environmental laws in the use of anhydrous ammonia and sulfuric acid at the two facilities.

Under a Consent Decree filed last week, JSB Industries, Inc. agreed to pay $156,000 in civil penalties and provide emergency response equipment expected to cost $119,000 to fire departments in Chelsea and Lawrence.

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The Consent Decree resolves claims in a complaint filed by the U.S. Department of Justice on behalf of EPA simultaneously with the Consent Decree, including failure to comply with accident prevention and mitigation provisions of the Clean Air Act, hazardous chemical reporting requirements of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act, and chemical release notification requirements of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act.

The Chelsea and Lawrence facilities are in densely populated, urban neighborhoods, in close proximity to residences and other businesses. Among other things, EPA said violations occurred at JSB’s Chelsea facility where, in April 2009, approximately 2,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia accidentally released from a refrigeration system there.

Anhydrous ammonia is an extremely hazardous chemical corrosive to skin, eyes, and lungs, can be immediately dangerous to life and health, and under certain conditions, is flammable and explosive. The 2009 Chelsea release exposed two firefighters to anhydrous ammonia, one of whom ended up hospitalized for medical treatment and triggered a shelter-in-place order by local authorities.

“Facilities that use hazardous substances, including anhydrous ammonia and sulfuric acid, have an obligation to carefully follow safety standards designed to protect nearby communities,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “This case illustrates the importance of complying with chemical accident planning, prevention and mitigation requirements, and underscores the critical role played by community right-to-know laws in helping prevent public health or environment harm from the release of hazardous chemicals and other potentially dangerous conditions resulting from chemical use.”

The violations include JSB’s failure to comply with the “general duty clause” of the Clean Air Act under which facilities using hazardous chemicals must identify hazards, design and maintain the facility in a safe manner by taking action to prevent accidental releases, and take steps to minimize the consequences of any accidental releases that do occur. Other violations in the complaint include the failure to notify national and state emergency response authorities about the ammonia release and failure to submit hazardous chemical inventory forms to state and local emergency response agencies.

The emergency response equipment provided under the settlement will enhance the Chelsea and Lawrence communities’ emergency preparedness and improve their abilities to effectively respond to the release of hazardous chemicals. The equipment will help these communities better protect their residents and workers, many of whom are members of low-income and minority groups that may end up disproportionately affected by the risks of environmental contamination. Among other things, the equipment provided under the settlement will help improve Chelsea’s and Lawrence’s abilities to rescue their citizens from environmental hazards, isolate and remove water contaminants, monitor and detect hazardous conditions, gain entry to confined spaces, and clean and maintain protective gear.

Failure to submit chemical inventory forms can put emergency responders at risk by withholding information regarding the presence and amounts of hazardous chemicals at a facility. EPA said prior to the 2009 release, JSB failed to inform emergency response officials as required about its use of ammonia at the Chelsea facility. In this case, the failure to report may have substantially increased the risks of the release because firefighters who first arrived at the scene appeared to be completely unaware of the presence of ammonia at that location.

JSB is a family-owned company that does business as “Muffin Town.” JSB operates out of its headquarters at 130 Crescent Street in Chelsea and from a newer facility at 309 Andover Street in Lawrence.

Under the terms of the consent decree, the defendants do not admit liability for the violations brought by the government. While JSB continues to use sulfuric acid (a regulated chemical) in heavy equipment batteries at its Chelsea and Lawrence locations, the company did remove the ammonia-based refrigeration system in Chelsea and replaced it, in 2012, with a less inherently dangerous nitrogen-based unit.

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