Tier II Chemical Reporting for Ammonia

Posted on 1/13/2015 by Scott Dunsmore

Now that 2014 is "in the books," many facilities will compile chemical data from last year's activities to prepare the various reports due this year. Hazardous chemical inventory reporting under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) at 40 CFR 370 is one of these requirements.

One substance that often creates a challenge for facility operators in making 40 CFR 370 determinations is ammonia. With the added focus on ammonia in light of the West Texas fertilizer plant explosion in 2013, accurate reporting on this substance is more critical than ever.

The following highlights a few of the applicability issues under 40 CFR 370 related to ammonia.

Ammonia vs. Ammonium Hydroxide

Ammonia, Chemical Abstract Services (CAS) number 7664-41-7, is an EPCRA extremely hazardous substance (EHS) listed in Appendix A to 40 CFR 355. The reporting threshold for ammonia under 40 CFR 370 is 500 pounds.

Ammonium hydroxide is a distinct substance combining ammonia and water that has a separate CAS number (1336-21-6).

Facilities have inquired as to whether that 500-pound threshold applies to ammonium hydroxide for the purpose of 40 CFR 370. In other words, must the amount of ammonia in ammonium hydroxide be counted (and aggregated) towards the 500-pound EHS threshold? For example, a facility has 9,000 pounds of ammonium hydroxide (19 percent ammonia) on site at a given time. The amount of ammonia present in the solution (1,710 pounds) would exceed the EHS threshold of 500 pounds. Does this facility have to include ammonia in its 40 CFR 370 reports?

The EHS list in 40 CFR 355 is defined by reference to the CAS registry number. The CAS registry considers ammonia and ammonium hydroxide as distinct chemicals, each having a distinct registry number. Therefore, the ammonia in ammonium hydroxide is not included in the 500-pound reporting threshold. A facility would report only if the total amount of ammonium hydroxide exceeds the 10,000-pound EPCRA threshold for hazardous chemicals subject to OSHA hazardous communication requirements.

Compressed Ammonia Tank

Ammonia and Farms

A farm supply company sells ammonia as a fertilizer to farmers. Is the ammonia, when held by the farm supplier, exempt from 40 CFR 370 reporting requirements?

EPCRA §311(e)(5) exempts "any substance to the extent it is used in routine agricultural operations or is a fertilizer held for sale by a retailer to the ultimate customer" from 40 CFR 370 reporting. Since the farmer is the ultimate customer for the fertilizer, 40 CFR 370 reporting is not required for the ammonia that the farm supplier keeps to sell to farmers.

This exemption applies to the chemical and not the facility as a whole. If the supplier also sells ammonia to other suppliers, or if the supplier also uses the ammonia as a blending ingredient to make other products, those ammonia amounts must be factored into a 40 CFR 370 reporting determination.
Ammonia Storage Tank With Mixed Usage

Ammonia is held for sale by a retailer in a large storage tank. The retailer sells the ammonia as both an agricultural fertilizer and as a coolant for air conditioning systems. Is the ammonia in the storage tank excluded from 40 CFR 370 under the EPCRA §311(e)(5) exclusion?

In this case, the amount of ammonia held for sale as a fertilizer to the ultimate customer is exempt from reporting under EPCRA §311(e)(5). However, the ammonia in the tank that is held for use as coolant is not exempt, since it will neither be used in routine agricultural operations nor as a fertilizer.

Since the retailer has a "mixed use" tank, he or she may find it easier to count all the material in the tank (both fertilizer and coolant) when determining whether or not to report. However, this is only one option. The retailer is only obligated to consider the quantity used as a coolant in determining 40 CFR 370 reporting.

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Tags: EPA, EPCRA, Recordkeeping and Reporting

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