Penobscot McCrum, a company based in Belfast, Maine, that runs a potato processing plant, will pay $60,500 in civil penalties following an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) enforcement action due violations in the plant’s use of ammonia.
"EPA's biggest concern was that the closest emergency responders specially trained to respond to ammonia releases were located about an hour away, yet the facility was in a downtown location where a release of this toxic gas could quickly injure people," EPA New England Regional Administrator Curt Spalding said. "Ammonia is a useful refrigerant with some environmental advantages, but companies must operate safely and follow federal regulations."
The facility’s lack of emergency responders was a violation of the Clean Air Act, which requires facilities with dangerous substances to follow certain Risk Management Plan Regulations. Specifically, during the October 2014 inspection that discovered this violation, the EPA found that the company was not following good engineering practices when operating the ammonia refrigeration system at the facility and that it did not have an adequate emergency response program.
In addition to the civil penalty, company will also purchase equipment worth $83,400 for emergency responders and improvements at the facility to promote public safety.