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February 2, 2017

Maine Blueberry Processor Takes Steps to Protect Public From Chemical Exposure

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chemical exposure

Hancock Foods operates a blueberry processing plant and cold storage warehouse in Hancock, Maine, where it uses anhydrous ammonia in its refrigeration systems. In March 1999, the facility first submitted a risk management plan (RMP), which is required for all facilities using certain amounts of extremely hazardous substances, including anhydrous ammonia, in order to help local fire, police and emergency response personnel prepare for and respond to chemical emergencies.

The RMP regulations also require facilities to prevent chemical releases by designing and operating their chemical processes in a safe manner. This case stems from a 2012 inspection of Hancock Foods in which EPA inspectors saw potentially dangerous conditions relating to the ammonia refrigeration processes. In addition, the company failed to immediately notify the National Response Center upon discovering a release of about 300 pounds of ammonia from a refrigeration unit on March 27, 2015. EPA responded to the violations at Hancock in two stages: first ensuring that the CAA violations were addressed in an administrative compliance order, then following up with a penalty action.

“Hancock has worked cooperatively with EPA through this process and has worked hard to correct its violations,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “These air and reporting laws help protect public health, first responders and our environment.”

In the settlement, Hancock Foods agreed to pay $103,613 to settle claims that it violated Section 112(r) of the Clean Air Act in its handling of anhydrous ammonia and $5,110 to settle claims it violated the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act – or Superfund law – when it failed to timely report a release of anhydrous ammonia.


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