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U.S. EPA fines frozen vegetable supplier $31,434 over ammonia release violations Pictsweet failed to notify authorities after chemical release


SAN FRANCISCO – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today fined the Pictsweet Company $31,434 for failing to notify federal and state emergency response agencies immediately following an ammonia release at its Santa Maria, Calif. food packaging plant, a violation of the federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-To-Know-Act and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act.

Although the company contacted the Santa Maria Fire Department, it failed to notify the National Response Center and the State Office of Emergency Services until eight hours after the release, violating the EPA’s reporting requirements.

“Facilities must provide timely and accurate information subsequent to a hazardous substance release,” said Keith Takata, Director of the Pacific Southwest region’s Superfund program. “With this information, emergency responders will be able to protect themselves and our communities.”

In July 2006, The Pictsweet Co., located at 732 Hanson Way, Santa Maria, Calif., suffered an equipment failure which released approximately 2,160 pounds of ammonia from one of the freezer units. Exposure to ammonia can irritate the skin, eyes, and respiratory system; extreme exposure may cause death.

The Pictsweet Company is one of the largest frozen vegetable suppliers in the U.S.

Enacted in 1986, the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act requires facilities to provide an emergency notification and a written follow-up notice of a hazardous substance release equal to or exceeding the minimum quantity set in the Act. Immediate notification is vital for emergency response teams to evaluate the nature and extent of a hazardous substance release, prevent exposure, and minimize consequences.


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