EPA and General Duty CAFO

EPA and General Duty CAFO

A facility in the northeast recently agreed to a CAFO at over $180,000.  This is a must read for all facilities regardless of charge quantity.  However this facility had a sign on the door the the engine room that they had a charge of 9,995 lbs.  Very close to the federal threshold and lets see how this inspection turned out.

  • At all times relevant to the violations alleged herein, the Facility’s ammonia refrigeration system used approximately 10,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia. A sign on the control panel outside the machinery room stated that the system was charged with 9,995 pounds of ammonia, a charge that is within 0.05% of the threshold amount of 10,000
  • The Facility’s ammonia refrigeration system was installed at the time that the Facility Facility was built in about 2010. However, on the roof of the Facility, the Respondent’s surge drum has a pressure relief valve with a tag stating that the valve was manufactured on 1/12/1988.
  • At the time of the inspection, the EPA Inspector observed some potentially dangerous conditions relating to Respondent’s ammonia refrigeration system (“System”), including that Respondent:
    • Had no documentation showing that it had performed any hazard analysis or review in order to identify all of the hazards associated with its System.
    • Had no warning signs identifying ammonia hazards on the two outside doors to the Machinery Room, and on the double-doors to the Machinery Room.
    • Had vent pipes along the west wall in the Machinery Room that were not labeled to show the direction of the flow or the contents in the pipes.
    • Had no “confined space” warning signs on the hatchway on the top of the water dispersion tank for the ammonia venting control system, and on both entry ports into the condenser.
    • Had several sections of exposed ammonia piping and fitting on the roof of the Facility with signs of corrosion.
    • Had no audio/visual alarms next to the double-doors entering the Machinery Room or on the north wall door to the Machinery Room.
    • Had no visual alarm on the outside door on the west wall of the Machinery Room, but had an audible alarm in this location that was not labeled as to its purpose.
    • Had a windsock that was not easily visible to emergency responders.
    • Had a main shut-off valve for the System (“King Valve”) that was not identified with a prominent sign and did not contain a handle allowing for manual operation. In addition, the King Valve was located eight to ten feet off the ground behind the high pressure receiver and was inaccessible.
    • Had no emergency eyewash or safety shower stations located inside or outside of the Machinery Room.
    • Had two sets of doors to the Machinery Room that opened inward rather than outward.
    • Had a one-inch gap at the bottom of the double-doors to the Machinery Room from which ammonia vapors could escape to other parts of the building in the event of an emergency.
    • Had a steel support girder located between the Machinery Room and the fire water public room that was not tightly sealed to the cinderblock wall.
    • Had an open viewing port, or peephole, into the Machinery Room, from which ammonia could leak or from which ammonia fumes could burn an employee’s eyes.
    • Had a water dispersion tank vent discharge that was located less than 7.25 feet above the adjacent roof line.
  • At the time of the Inspection, EPA reviewed Respondent’s emergency and hazardous chemical inventory form Tier 2 reports. For calendar years 2011, 2012, and 2013, Respondent stored over 500 pounds of ammonia, 1,000 pounds of sulfuric acid at the Facility, and over 10,000 pounds of lead in lead-acid batteries at the Facility.
  • Industry standards and guidelines with respect to ammonia refrigeration systems are found in, among other places, IIAR Standard 2, ASHRAE Standard 15, IIAR bulletins, the IIAR ARM Program, and other materials consistently relied upon in the refrigeration industry.
  • The recommended industry practice and standard of care for identifying, analyzing, and evaluating potential hazards associated with ammonia refrigeration systems of the same size and type as Respondent’s System is to use, among other things, standard, industry-developed hazard identification checklists, a “What If’ analysis, or a Hazard and Operability (a/k/a “HAZOP”) study.
  • According to EPA’s GDC Guidance, the General Duty Clause’s duty to identify hazards that may result from hazardous releases requires determining (a) the intrinsic hazards of the chemicals used in the processes, (b) the risks of accidental releases from the processes through possible release scenarios, and ( c) the potential effect of these releases on the public and the environment.
  • Moreover, Respondent was not able to produce any Process Hazard Review while the EPA Inspector was at the Facility.
  • Accordingly, Respondent violated the General Duty Clause’s requirement to identify hazards associated with the refrigeration system using industry-recognized hazard assessment techniques,
  • Respondent failed in its general duty to design and maintain the Facility as a safe facility, taking such steps as were necessary to prevent a release of an extremely hazardous substance, in at least the respects listed below. The industry standards of care illustrate how the ammonia refrigeration industry has recognized hazards associated with designing and maintaining an ammonia refrigeration system and developed measures to reduce such hazards.
  • More on this CAFO at this link