NOBULL: BPI to pay $450,000 fine for 2007 ammonia release — BPI uses anhydrous ammonia to produce Pink Slime

BPI to pay $450,000 fine for 2007 ammonia release

By Lisa M. Keefe on 4/24/2013

Beef Products Inc. has agreed to pay a $450,000 civil penalty to settle alleged violations of Clean Air Act regulations at its now-closed production facility in Waterloo, Iowa, and to resolve the agency’s past concerns regarding the refrigeration systems at all BPI’s facilities in three states, the company and the Environmental Protection Agency announced.

The fine stems from a deadly 2007 incident at the Waterloo plant that released more than 1,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia into a production area where workers were located. Two BPI employees were trapped in the incident, leaving one dead and one permanently disabled. During the response to the release, BPI directed its employees to enter the facility while dangerous levels of airborne anhydrous ammonia remained present, the EPA said.

As part of a consent decree filed in U.S. District Court in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, BPI has agreed to conduct third-party audits of its compliance with the Clean Air Act’s Risk Management Program requirements at the company’s South Sioux City, Nebraska, facility. It is the only BPI factory now operating after the 2012 media and social media storm about the company’s primary product, lean finely textured beef.

BPI will then have 90 days to submit a plan to EPA that will correct identified violations within one year.

Through the agreement with EPA, Beef Products Inc. will enhance its existing controls to include additional programs consistent with Risk Management Plan requirements of the federal Clean Air Act at the company’s facilities, the company said in a statement emailed to Meatingplace. The new program is based upon existing Risk Management Plans for BP’s refrigeration systems, which use anhydrous ammonia as a refrigerant.

After the 2007 incident, EPA gathered information about the release and facility operations, and determined that BPI did have a risk management program on paper but failed to implement the program at the Waterloo facility, contributing to the 2007 incident.

The consent decree is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the federal court. Once it is published in the Federal Register, a copy of the consent decree will be available on the Justice Department web site.

"[Beef Products Inc.] is dedicated to responsibly managing its operations and committed to respecting the environment. The company sees this agreement as an opportunity to work with EPA to further BP’s environmental stewardship efforts," the company’s statement said.