Tyson Foods has agreed to pay a $3.95 million fine to settle alleged violations of federal clean air regulations covering the prevention of chemical spills at facilities in Kansas, Missouri and two other states.
By STEVE ROSEN
The Kansas City Star
Under a consent decree announced Friday in federal court in St. Louis, Tyson also agreed to conduct pipe testing and independent audits of its ammonia refrigeration systems to improve compliance with Clean Air Act requirements at all 23 of the company’s facilities in Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Iowa.
Those facilities include operations in Olathe, Emporia, Hutchinson, South Hutchinson and Finney County in Kansas, and Concordia, Dexter, Monett, Montgomery City, Noel and Sedalia in Missouri.
Tyson, based in Springdale, Ark., is one of the world’s largest processors and marketers of chicken, beef and pork.
The settlement stems from eight incidents between 2006 and 2010 in which accidental releases of anhydrous ammonia at Tyson plants resulted in one fatality along with multiple injuries and property damages, according to a statement from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Justice Department. Anyhdrous ammonia, considered a poisonous gas, is commonly used in industrial refrigeration systems.
In 2006, a Tyson employee at the company’s plant in South Hutchinson died after an ammonia leak there.
The EPA said it found “multiple occasions of noncompliance with the Clean Air Act’s chemical accident prevention provisions” at Tyson facilities. Those violations included failure to follow general industry standards to test or replace safety relief valves and improper handling of machinery
Regulators said the Tyson facilities covered in the consent decree have a combined inventory of more than 1.7 million pounds of the chemical.
Tyson said Friday that it disputed many of the EPA’s allegations but acknowledged “there was a period when some refrigeration improvement projects fell behind schedule and Tyson did not meet all the obligations required under the program” at several locations.
“We strive to operate our facilities responsibly, so after learning of EPA’s concerns, we immediately made improvements and cooperated with EPA officials,” said Kevin Igli, a Tyson senior vice president.
The company also will provide $300,000 to help buy emergency response equipment for fire departments in nine communities where it operates plants, including Monett, Noel and Dexter.
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