EPA fines Newburyport, Mass. company for alleged violations of the Clean Air Act and Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act

BOSTON (June 17, 2024) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently reached a settlement with Electronic Products Industries LLC, of Newburyport, Mass. for alleged violations of EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) reporting requirements under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) and the process hazard review (PHR) requirement of the General Duty Clause of the Clean Air Act.

The alleged violations stem from Electronic Products’ use of anhydrous ammonia. Electronic Products had not performed a PHR to identify hazards from its use of anhydrous ammonia and failed to timely submit Toxics Release Inventory forms for anhydrous ammonia as required, thereby depriving people of their right to know about the presence of this toxic chemical in their community. The settlement requires Electronic Products to pay a combined cash penalty of $117,647 to resolve these alleged violations.

Exposure to high levels of ammonia in air may be irritating to skin, eyes, throat, and lungs, and cause coughing and burns. Lung damage and death may occur after exposure to very high concentrations of ammonia. Some people with asthma may be more sensitive to breathing ammonia than others.

“Citizens have a right to know about dangerous, toxic substances in their neighborhood,” said EPA New England Regional Administrator David W. Cash. “There are homes, schools, businesses, a fire station, and a church near this facility – which is less than two miles from downtown Newburyport. EPA’s action underscores the importance of companies understanding the hazards of using hazardous substances like anhydrous ammonia and using that knowledge to undertake safe handling and management practices to protect public safety.”

Clean Air Act (CAA) Section 112(r) General Duty Clause (GDC) Violation:
The EPA alleged that Electronic Products violated CAA Section 112(r)’s GDC by failing to identify hazards related to its use of anhydrous ammonia at the Facility. Specifically, Electronic Products failed to conduct a process hazard review (“PHR”) for its ammonia process. Electronic Products hired a consultant who completed a process hazard review shortly after being informed by EPA of the requirement.

The General Duty Clause aims to prevent the accidental release of extremely hazardous chemicals and minimize the consequences of any such releases. Under this provision, owners and operators of facilities that store or use extremely hazardous chemicals have the duty, among others, to identify hazards that may result from a release and document this analysis in a PHR.

Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) Violations:
The EPA alleged that Electronic Products violated EPCRA Section 313(a) and its implementing regulations by failing to timely submit TRI reporting forms for anhydrous ammonia used at the Facility in calendar years 2019, 2020, and 2021. Electronic Products promptly filed its missing TRI forms for ammonia after being informed of the deficiencies.

Under federal TRI regulations, companies that use certain listed toxic chemicals must report their releases of those chemicals each year to EPA. This information serves as the basis for the Toxic Release Inventory, which is a collection of data that can be readily reviewed by communities, government, and industry. With the information being publicly available, companies have an incentive to reduce harmful chemical use and improve their environmental performance. TRI reporting informs surrounding communities about a facility’s toxic chemicals that could potentially harm public health and the environment and offers transparency.

Electronic Products produces both glass-to-metal seals and high-temperature co-fired ceramics for use in semiconductor products. This case stems from information learned about the facility in conjunction with an inspection by EPA in February 2023. Electronic Products cooperated with the EPA throughout the enforcement process and quickly came into compliance with the relevant statutes following EPA’s inspection.

For more information visit:

Toxics Release Inventory Program: https://www.epa.gov/toxics-release-inventory-tri-program.

EPCRA: https://www.epa.gov/epcra.

General Duty Clause: https://www.epa.gov/rmp/general-duty-clause-under-clean-air-act-section-112r1.

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