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Sulfur Dioxide Release Leads to $106,000 in EPA Fines

Posted on 10/4/2016 by Roger Marks

US EPA reported this week that a Carson, California facility that produces sulfuric acid for refineries will pay a $106,000 civil penalty following a release of sulfur dioxide that hospitalized eleven people working at neighboring sites.

According to EPA, the company released 65,049 pounds of sulfur dioxide over a five-hour period in 2013. The facility:
  • Failed to stop operations when alarms sounded;
  • Did not properly train employees to respond to the alarm;
  • Failed to conduct a pre-startup safety routine; and
  • Did not report the release to appropriate authorities quickly enough.
The first three bullet points above are violations of the Clean Air Act, while the failure to report is a violation of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA). 

Releases to the atmosphere are regulated by the Clean Air Act
EPCRA requires facilities to immediately report the release of a hazardous substance or extremely hazardous substance when the amount released exceeds the substance’s reportable quantity if the release can expose people outside the facility boundary to the hazardous chemical. [49 CFR 355, Appendix A]

Because employees at neighboring facilities were affected by chemical exposure due to this release—some complained of respiratory pain and eye irritation—the facility should have reported the release immediately. 

For more about reporting requirements for chemical releases, read Release Reporting Requirements—EPCRA vs. CERCLA.

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Tags: EPCRA, release reporting

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