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EPA fines Kloosterboer $10K for ammonia leak

November 17th | Jim Paulin Print this article   Email this article  

An Unalaska cold storage company was fined $10,000 last week for an ammonia leak that seriously injured a worker at the Ballyhoo Road facility last year.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has reached a settlement with Kloosterboer Dutch Harbor LLC, a Seattle-based company that operates the seafood cold storage facility, according to a Nov. 8 statement.

The settlement also calls for the firm to buy special equipment for the Unalaska Department of Public Safety, and provide training. The incident occurred on Dec. 3, 2016.

Under the terms of its agreement with the EPA, Kloosterboer will upgrade the facility's computerized refrigeration control system to help prevent future releases and reduce the amount of ammonia leaked in the event of a release. The upgraded system will use leak detectors to monitor ammonia levels in the freezer and send signals to the computerized control system if ammonia levels reach preset concentrations? If an ammonia leak occurs, the control system will notify operators and managers via audible and visual alarms in the facility, automatically shut off the ammonia pumps, and activate the emergency exhaust system?

The company will also purchase hazmat emergency response equipment for Unalaska's Department of Public Safety and train two of the company's personnel to respond to hazmat emergencies at the facility and other facilities in the community?

"Federal emergency planning, reporting and response requirements are important for protecting workers, emergency responders and the community," said Ed Kowalski, Director of EPA's Region 10 Compliance and Enforcement Division in Seattle. "The company's failure to provide timely information, crucial in an emergency response, put their workers and the public at risk? Early notification plays a critical role in getting resources and personnel mobilized, which can make all the difference in reducing harm to people and the environment."

Kloosterboer has agreed to complete supplemental environmental projects, valued at approximately $26,000, which will help prevent or reduce future ammonia releases and improve safety at the facility. The company will also pay a $10,008 penalty.

On Dec. 3, 2016, Kloosterboer's Unalaska facility released 125 pounds of anhydrous ammonia, which attacks skin, eyes, throat and lungs and can cause serious injury or death, from a leaking line inside the facility's freezer.

The company notified local emergency responders via 911 immediately after the ammonia release. However, the company reported the release to the National Response Center and the Alaska Emergency Response Commission on Dec. 5, more than 46 hours after the release occurred. The company also failed to submit a follow-up notification to the Local Emergency Planning Committee. The release and emergency reporting delays violated the federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act, and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, according to the EPA.

This case underscores the importance of timely reporting of hazardous releases to the National Response Center 24-hour hotline: 1-800-424-8802, according to the agency.


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