Minnesota-based Cenex Harvest States (CHS), Inc has agreed to settle a series of alleged violations of the Clean Air Act at its facilities in Garretson, SD for $35,200. This includes a $15,500 civil penalty and $19,700 which will be used to conduct several agricultural ammonia safety workshops in multiple states including North and South Dakota. These workshops will include information on how the EPA Risk Management Program requirements apply to agricultural ammonia facilities and how these facilities can meet these requirements. CHS will also remove large tanks of ammonia (a toxic substance) from the Garretson, SD city center.
EPA conducted a compliance inspection at the CHS facility in April of 2010 to assess compliance with federal risk management program regulations. The settlement requires CHS to implement improved maintenance and internal auditing of equipment used to store and process hazardous chemicals, as well as improves how the facility addresses correcting identified hazards. The settlement also requires CHS to ensure removing the ammonia from the city center will not adversely affect availability of ammonia for local customers.
Under the Clean Air Act, operations such as CHS must develop a risk management program and submit a risk management plan to assist with emergency preparedness, chemical release prevention, and minimization of releases that occur. EPA Inspectors found that the facility had not adequately implemented those regulations.
“Companies using chemicals and substances which pose a potential danger to their employees and the public are responsible for having a robust risk management program in place,” said Mike Gaydosh, director of EPA’s enforcement program in Denver. “Failure to do so places the environment, employees, and the nearby community at risk. CHS has been cooperative and has agreed to take corrective action and provide workshops to educate others about the dangers of ammonia to the community.”
CHS, which has operations in several states, is subject to the risk management regulations because it handles and stores large quantities of ammonia, classified as “extremely hazardous” by EPA. Exposure to ammonia can result in burns to the skin, eyes, and lungs; exposure at higher concentrations has resulted in fatalities. Failure to establish adequate programs and keep plans updated can increase the risk of accidents and reduce preparedness for emergencies.