Chem Firm Reaches Safety Settlement

Wednesday, October 22, 2014 @ 03:10 PM gHale

A Fall River, MA, company must make its chemical manufacturing, warehouse, and distribution facility safer after federal regulators found several dangerous conditions with the company’s use, storage and handling of chlorine and ammonia.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said Borden & Remington Corp. violated Clean Air Act requirements by failing to prepare and submit a Risk Management Plan (RMP) that included all covered ammonia and chlorine processes at its facility, and by failing to comply with process safety information and operating procedure requirements relating to its use, storage, and handling of ammonia and chlorine.

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Borden also violated the Clean Air Act’s General Duty Clause by storing incompatible chemicals so close together that a spill or release of one chemical could result in a violent chemical reaction with another chemical, potentially releasing toxic gases or causing a fire or explosion, the EPA said.

In a related settlement agreement filed by EPA, Borden also agreed to pay civil penalties of $114,118 to resolve EPA claims the facility violated federal Clean Air Act requirements to prevent chemical releases at the facility.

“The chemicals manufactured at Borden & Remington’s Fall River plant, including sodium hypochlorite, are important for public health because they are used for disinfecting drinking water, wastewater, and swimming pools,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “That said, very dangerous chemicals, such as chlorine, are used to manufacture these disinfectants, so managing their risks is critical. The safety improvements the company is making should lower the risk of an ammonia or chlorine release in Fall River and better prepare emergency responders to address any mishap if one should occur.”

Exposure to chlorine and ammonia present significant health risks because each chemical is severely corrosive to the eyes, skin, and lungs, and exposure to high concentrations of either chemical can be fatal. Inhalation of chlorine at lower concentrations can cause lung inflammation, fluid in the lungs, chest pain, and vomiting. Inhalation of lower concentrations of ammonia can cause irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat and, if exposure continues or increases, can lead to narrowing of the throat and respiratory distress. Skin contact with ammonia can cause extensive damage by corrosive burns. Ammonia can explode if it releases in an enclosed space with a source of ignition present, or if a vessel containing anhydrous ammonia ends up exposed to fire.

This case stemmed from an EPA inspection of the facility in May 2012. Since the inspection, Borden has taken numerous steps to come into compliance with the Clean Air Act and reduce the risk of an accidental release at the facility, including updating its RMP to include all covered ammonia and chlorine processes at the facility (previously, rail car storage was not covered); reducing the amount of hazardous chemicals on site and eliminating the use of some hazardous chemicals entirely; restricting public access to the plant; moving railcars of chemicals to more protected areas for storage; implementing design changes and work practices to reduce the likelihood of an accidental release; refurbishing tanks, piping, supports, and electrical equipment that had been compromised by severe corrosion; separating incompatible chemicals inside the company’s warehouse; and adding containment berms designed to limit the spread of potential spills.

As part of its settlement with EPA, Borden certified it corrected the dangerous conditions identified by EPA and is now operating its facility in compliance with the Clean Air Act’s RMP requirements and General Duty Clause. Borden cooperated with EPA in promptly correcting the violations.

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