Under settlement, facility owner will pay fine, make necessary chemical safety improvements
August 17, 2022
SAN FRANCISCO – Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a settlement with Saputo Cheese USA Inc., the owner and operator of a mozzarella cheese and whey protein concentrate production facility in Tulare, California. Saputo Cheese violated provisions of the Clean Air Act intended to safeguard the public from accidental releases of hazardous chemicals. As a result, the company will pay $170,000 in civil penalties, ensure compliance with its Risk Management Plan, and make safety improvements to its facility with the goal of protecting the public and first responders from dangerous chemicals.
“It is paramount that food manufacturing facilities – including those, like Saputo Cheese, located in communities that face environmental justice challenges – properly handle extremely hazardous substances,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Martha Guzman. “When companies do not properly manage a dangerous substance, endangering the local community and workers, EPA won’t hesitate to levy significant Clean Air Act penalties.”
An accident at the facility on June 22, 2018, led to the release of 5,690 pounds of anhydrous ammonia. The facility is in a community that is disproportionally affected by environmental burdens, and incidents like these raise significant environmental justice concerns, which are a priority for EPA.
EPA performed an inspection of the Saputo Cheese facility in 2019 and found that the company failed to correct corrosion on piping and structural supports and failed to demonstrate that safety vents met industry standards. EPA also found that Saputo Cheese did not accurately report the total amount of ammonia it manages and failed to comply with requirements related to planning for accidental releases. EPA found that safety improvements were necessary at the facility to help prevent future accidents.
Since the time of inspection, the facility has addressed all of the issues with the exception of ongoing work to correct safety vent issues.
About Anhydrous Ammonia
Thousands of facilities nationwide make, use, and store extremely hazardous substances, including anhydrous ammonia. Anhydrous ammonia can cause serious, often irreversible health effects when released. In addition to potential impacts from inhalation of or skin contact with this substance, it is highly flammable.
Catastrophic accidents at facilities that make, use, or store extremely hazardous substances such as ammonia refrigeration facilities—historically about 150 each year—result in fatalities and serious injuries, evacuations, and other harm to human health and the environment. EPA inspects these facilities as part of the Agency’s National Compliance Initiative, which seeks to reduce risk to human health and the environment by decreasing the likelihood of accidental releases and mitigating the consequences of chemical accidents.
About Clean Air Act Section 112(r):
Section 112(r) of the Clean Air Act requires companies of all sizes that use certain listed regulated flammable and toxic substances to develop and implement a Risk Management Program. Some of the elements of a properly developed Risk Management Program include:
- A prevention program that includes safety precautions, regular maintenance, and employee training; and
- An emergency response program that spells out procedures for informing the public and response agencies (e.g., the fire department) should an accident occur.
For more information on Clean Air Act Section 112(r) visit EPA’s Fact Sheet: Clean Air Act Section 112(r): Accidental Release Prevention / Risk Management Plan Rule website.
Reducing Accidental Releases at Industrial and Chemical Facilities
For more information on reporting possible violations of environmental laws and regulations visit EPA’s enforcement reporting website.
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