Dairy company settles with EPA

Sunshine’s Pride, a dairy company that formerly had a cheese processing operation in Winchester, has settled with the Environmental Protection Agency after two anhydrous ammonia leaks in 2011 and 2012.

The dairy processor will pay a $179,074 penalty for the improper notification of emergency personnel after the incidents and “for not updating its operating procedures to reflect current conditions at the facility, failing to document proper training of its operators, and failing to maintain its ammonia processing equipment,” according to a release from the EPA.

Also alleged was that Sunshine’s Pride failed to report the ammonia on its 2012 or 2013 chemical reporting forms.

The cheese processing operation was shut down in December 2011, but the anhydrous ammonia remained stored in the plant’s refrigeration system. The EPA alleged that in 2012, one release of anhydrous ammonia, totaling between 100 and 500 pounds, and another release of more than 1,500 pounds were released into the air. Following the second release, the remaining anhydrous ammonia was drained from the system, the release stated.

Roy Seneca, with the EPA’s Office of Communications and Government Relations, explained the threshold of gas leaks to require reporting.

“The facility is required to report any release of anhydrous ammonia that exceeds 100 pounds. Both of these releases exceeded that quantity,” he stated in an email Thursday.

According to the EPA documents, “Anhydrous ammonia is very corrosive, and exposure to it may result in chemical-type burns to skin, eyes, and lungs. It may also result in frostbite, since its boiling point is -28ºF. Ammonia is hygroscopic, which means it has a high affinity for water, and migrates to moist areas like the eyes, nose, mouth, throat, and moist skin.”

The settlement resolves the EPA’s allegations that Sunshine’s Pride violated three federal statutes, namely a portion of the Clean Air Act and failing to report releases to the National Response Center, which is required by the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act. The third statute violated was failing to comply with community right-to-know reporting requirements, according to the release.

As a condition of the settlement, the company neither admitted nor denied the agency’s allegations.

Contact staff writer Nathan Budryk at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or nbudryk@nvdaily.com