Tyson Foods has agreed to pay almost $4 million in civil penalties to settle alleged violations related to eight accidental releases of anhydrous ammonia that happened over a four-year span and caused one death.
The audit and settlement involves 24 meat processing facilities, none of which are located in Arkansas; but two – Noel and Sedalia Mo. – are in neighboring counties north of the state line.
The settlement also required Tyson to create a special program for risk management in facilities where leaks occurred between 2006 and 2010 at Tyson sites in Missouri, Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska.
In a proactive move, the settlement also calls for Tyson to provide $300,000 to help purchase emergency response equipment for fire departments in nine communities where it has plants.
“We strive to operate our facilities responsibly, so after learning of EPA’s concerns we immediately made improvements and cooperated with EPA officials throughout the process,” said Kevin Igli, senior vice president and chief Environmental, Health and Safety Officer of Tyson Foods.
The new program will build upon Tyson Foods’ existing Risk Management Plans for the company’s refrigeration systems, which use anhydrous ammonia as a refrigerant. The plans are designed to prevent chemical emergencies by requiring a systematic process for managing chemical hazards, including training, worker communication, maintenance and other activities, according a release by Tyson Foods following the settlement.
EPA asserted the company had not complied quickly enough with several RMP requirements at some facilities located within EPA Region 7 (Midwest).
Company officials dispute many of the EPA’s assertions, but acknowledge there was a period when some refrigeration improvement projects fell behind schedule and Tyson did not meet all the obligations required under the program at several locations.
“We also agreed to develop a third-party audit system at the facilities involved to assure EPA these plants are in compliance with all aspects of our Risk Management Plan obligations,” Igli said. “In fact, we expect this auditing system to become a model provision that EPA may require from other industrial users of anhydrous ammonia or other chemicals, including other agricultural and food companies.”