The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reached a settlement with Hydrite Chemical Co. to resolve alleged violations of federal Clean Air Act chemical accident prevention regulations following an accidental chemical release that injured an employee. The accident occurred at a Hydrite Chemical Co. chemical manufacturing and distribution facility in Waterloo, Iowa.

“The Risk Management Program protects workers at industrial facilities and those who live and work in surrounding communities,” said EPA Region 7 Administrator Jim Gulliford. “Chemical facilities must adhere to RMP requirements to reduce the risk of accidental release of hazardous substances.”

Reducing risks from accidental releases of hazardous substances at industrial and chemical facilities is a top priority for EPA, and one of seven National Compliance Initiatives.

EPA inspected Hydrite in April 2019 in response to the accidental chemical release that injured one of its employees. At the time of the EPA inspection, the facility contained over 10,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia, making it subject to chemical accident prevention regulations – commonly known as the Risk Management Program – intended to protect communities from accidental releases of hazardous substances.

Anhydrous ammonia presents a significant health hazard because it is corrosive to the skin, eyes and lungs. Exposure may result in injury or death.

During the inspection, EPA determined that Hydrite failed to calculate and report the amount of anhydrous ammonia it stored; failed to develop and implement procedures for safely handling anhydrous ammonia and responding to accidental releases; and failed to timely implement recommendations from the company’s own compliance audits.

In response to the inspection findings, Hydrite took the necessary steps to return its facility to compliance. To settle the alleged violations, the company agreed to pay a civil penalty of $79,900.

EPA has found that many regulated facilities are not adequately managing the risks that they pose or ensuring the safety of their facilities in a way that is sufficient to protect surrounding communities. Approximately 150 catastrophic accidents occur each year at regulated facilities. These accidents result in fatalities, injuries, significant property damage, evacuations, sheltering in place, or environmental damage. Many more accidents with lesser effects also occur, demonstrating a clear risk posed by these facilities.