The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a settlement with Anheuser-Busch LLC resolving the brewing giant’s violations of the Clean Air Act’s chemical accident prevention requirements and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act.
Anheuser-Busch will pay $537,000 in penalties and implement a comprehensive safety review of all 11 of its breweries that use the refrigerant anhydrous ammonia. The safety review will occur at facilities located in New Hampshire, California, Colorado, Texas, Ohio, Florida, New York, Virginia, Georgia, and Missouri.
According to the EPA, anhydrous ammonia is an efficient refrigerant with low global warming potential, but it must be handled with care because it is corrosive to the skin, eyes, and lungs.
“Accidental releases of anhydrous ammonia are dangerous and can be deadly,” said Acting Assistant Administrator Larry Starfield for the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “EPA is committed to protecting workers, communities, and first responders by ensuring companies like Anheuser-Busch both fund and maintain a comprehensive, up-to-date Risk Management Plan.”
Starfield added, “This settlement should send a clear message to companies managing extremely hazardous chemicals that EPA will hold companies accountable if they fail to adequately prepare for and prevent chemical accidents.”
Between 2016 and 2019, the EPA conducted inspections at three of Anheuser-Busch’s facilities located in Merrimack, N.H.; Fort Collins, Colo.; and Fairfield, Calif. The EPA also investigated an ammonia release that occurred in 2018 at Anheuser-Busch’s Fort Collins facility, injuring two employees.
The EPA said many of its allegations for all three facilities are related to Anheuser-Busch’s failure to comply with recognized and generally accepted good engineering practices.
Under the settlement, Anheuser-Busch must hire an outside, independent expert to conduct a safety review at each of its 11 flagship breweries nationwide that use anhydrous ammonia in accordance with two of the most recent and comprehensive ammonia refrigeration industry standards and issue recommended actions based on those reviews. Anheuser-Busch must also develop and implement corrective action plans based on those reviews. The EPA said these terms will provide increased protection to approximately 172,000 people in the communities surrounding Anheuser-Busch’s facilities.
Annually there are approximately 120 catastrophic accidents nationwide at facilities that make, use, or store extremely hazardous substances, according to the EPA. These accidents result in fatalities and serious injuries, evacuations, and other harm to human health and the environment. The EPA inspects these facilities as part of the agency’s National Enforcement and Compliance Initiative.
More info on the EPA’s enforcement of anhydrous ammonia at facilities is available here.