Hazardous and Solid Waste

RMP—What Happens When You Don’t Follow Your Plan

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been under pressure to update and better manage its Clean Air Act Risk Management Program and is moving ever closer to a proposed rule that will modify the program. The Agency continues to scrutinize facilities that are required to have risk management plans. Today we will review a recent enforcement case in which the remedy will span four states and cost the company millions of dollars.

Note. The Risk Management Program requires that sources with more than a threshold quantity (TQ) of a regulated substance in a process develop and implement a risk management program and submit a risk management plan (RMP) to the EPA. The Agency puts the number of facilities affected by risk management requirements at 12,600. Those affected include (but are not limited to) chemical manufacturers, petroleum refineries, water treatment systems, agricultural chemical distributors, refrigerated warehouses, chemical distributors, nonchemical manufacturers, wholesale fuel distributors, and energy generation facilities.

The Risk Management Program applies to any facility that has a listed substance above the threshold quantity in any single process at the facility. The listed substances contain 77 toxic chemicals with thresholds ranging from 500 pounds (lb) to 20,000 lb and 63 flammable substances with a threshold quantity of 10,000 lb.

The EPA is hunting down companies that have been lax in the development and implementation of required RMPs. Here’s what happened recently to one company.

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What Went Wrong

A global leader in agricultural innovations recently settled with the EPA over a chemical accident at a pesticide manufacturing facility in West Virginia that killed two people. According to the EPA, although the company had developed an RMP, it did not comply with the requirements of the plan. In 2008, a new digital control system was installed at the pesticide facility in West Virginia, but safety interlock associated with the control system was not properly engaged at the start-up. The EPA claims that employees were not fully trained to understand or operate the system and failed to follow procedures for sampling, temperature control, and flow safeguards.

What happened then was that an uncontrollable buildup in a treatment unit caused a chemical reaction resulting in the explosion, fire, and loss of two lives. During the incident, the company allegedly delayed emergency officials trying to access the plant and failed to provide adequate information to 911 operators.

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The Fine and the Fix

The company will pay a $975,000 fine. On top of that, it will also spend $452,000 in a series of steps to prevent chemical releases at its facilities in West Virginia, Texas, Missouri, and Michigan. These efforts will include improving inspections to identify potential safety issues and standardizing facility safety operating procedures.

In addition, the company will spend a whopping $4.23 in the community in West Virginia where the accident occurred.  The money will provide emergency response equipment and training for local fire and police departments, shelter-in-place training and hazardous waste collections at local public schools. The money will also be used to install equipment to prevent pollution from water used in the company’s manufacturing process from reaching a local major river. 

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