chemical releases of ammonia at facilities located in East Providence, R.I., and Sandwich, Mass.
According to EPA’s complaint, JP Lillis Enterprises, which does business under the trade name Cape Cod Ice, failed to put in place a required “Risk Management Plan” for ammonia used in the refrigeration system at its East Providence facility, in violation of the federal Clean Air Act. EPA also alleged that the company violated the Clean Air Act’s General Duty Clause, which applies to facilities where extremely hazardous substances such as ammonia are present, at its Sandwich location.
Under the General Duty Clause, owners and operators of these facilities are required to identify hazards, design and maintain the facility in a safe manner, taking steps to prevent accidental releases of the extremely hazardous substance, and take steps to minimize the consequences of any accidental releases that occur.
The company had not taken required steps to design and maintain a safe facility or taken precautions that would minimize the consequences of an accidental release of ammonia, if one were to occur, at its Sandwich facility. For example, they failed to provide mechanical ventilation; working ammonia detectors and an emergency shutdown switch for the machinery room; develop operating procedures and a comprehensive mechanical integrity program; and train employees in the proper operation of the system at the Sandwich facility.
Ammonia presents a significant health hazard because it is corrosive to the skin, eyes and lungs. Exposure to 300 parts per million is immediately dangerous to life and health. Ammonia is also flammable at concentrations of about 15 to 28 percent by volume in air. It can explode if it is released in an enclosed space with a source of ignition present, or if a vessel containing anhydrous ammonia is exposed to fire.
Risk Management Plans required under the Clean Air Act, and steps required under the General Duty Clause, help prevent accidental releases of substances that can cause serious harm to the public and the environment from short-term exposures and reduces the severity of releases that do occur. A company that fails to take these steps can leave the public and environment at risk from accidental releases.
Both Cape Cod Ice facilities are located less than a fifth of a mile from residential homes, and less than a quarter of a mile from retail and office areas.
This case stems from information learned about JP’s facilities following an inspection of the Sandwich facility by EPA in November 2011. After EPA’s inspection, JP developed and submitted a risk management plan for its East Providence facility, and the company is currently working to fix problems identified at the Sandwich facility. For example, the company has installed an ammonia detector at the Sandwich Facility and investigated and corrected pipe corrosion and vibration problems noted by EPA inspectors. JP also plans to install a ventilation fan and an emergency shutdown switch and to prepare and implement an improved maintenance program for the system.