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EPA Takes Action Against Meat Processing Facility

February 25, 2010
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According to a press release statement, the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency is ordering Columbus Manufacturing of South San Francisco, Calif., to address safety concerns in the facility’s ammonia refrigeration systems following a recent release of an extremely hazardous chemical into the environment. Columbus, a meat processing company, has agreed to comply with the order. During an August 2009 incident, the plant accidentally released approximately 200 pounds of anhydrous ammonia into the air. The release resulted in the evacuation of all facility employees and several neighboring businesses. Nearly 30 people from the nearby Genentech campus sought medical attention and 17 individuals were hospitalized. One person remained hospitalized for four days. The facility’s accidental release in August was allegedly caused by a buildup of hydrostatic pressure in a section of piping which caused the subsequent rupture of a nearby component. Following the incident, EPA and San Mateo County’s Division of Environmental Health Services inspected the facility and evaluated Columbus Manufacturing’s ammonia refrigeration systems and safety management systems. The inspections revealed a number of safety concerns regarding the design and maintenance of the facility’s anhydrous ammonia refrigeration system. EPA’s order requires Columbus Manufacturing to complete a series of tasks within the next three months. The tasks include the replacement of certain safety relief valves, the replacement of all components with any signs of corrosion or made from incompatible materials such as brass, and the proper tagging and labeling of all of its ammonia refrigeration system piping and valves. Within 105 days of this order, the facility will need to submit verification to the EPA indicating compliance with all required actions.

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