EPA Settlement Improves Fire Safety at Propane Distribution Terminal in N. Grafton, Mass.

September 27, 2021

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BOSTON (Sept. 27, 2021) – EPA has finalized a settlement with Grafton & Upton Railroad Company for alleged violations of federal chemical accident prevention requirements at the company's propane distribution terminal in N. Grafton, Mass.  The company will pay a $52,000 civil penalty, automate the delivery of water for fire suppression in the winter, and deliver training to emergency responders.

In 2018, Grafton & Upton Railroad Co. (G&U) opened a new propane transfer terminal at its N. Grafton facility, which consists of a railroad siding off the main rail line with storage for propane rail cars, transfer stations, four 80,000-gallon storage tanks, and truck loading stations.  The terminal is located near homes, a school, and other businesses. South of the terminal is a switching yard where CSX and G&U couple and de-couple railcars carrying other materials (such as asphalt and wax) for delivery to terminals south of Grafton.

Propane is subject to regulation under the Clean Air Act's chemical accident prevention provisions, found in Section 112(r) of the Act and implementing regulations. Under these regulations, facilities storing and handling certain quantities of extremely hazardous materials must file a risk management plan (RMP) with EPA and comply with the other chemical accident prevention and mitigation requirements. The RMP also provides a summary of the company's accident prevention and mitigation program.

"It is important that facilities take all necessary actions to protect local communities by following chemical accident prevention steps," said EPA New England's Acting Regional Administrator Deb Szaro. "Risk Management Plans are important because they identify the potential effects of a chemical accident and they identify steps the facility is taking to prevent an accident. RMPs also contain important information for emergency responders."  

EPA alleged that G&U failed to file an RMP before the terminal opened for business. An EPA inspection concluded that the terminal generally was well-designed in accordance with industry standards, but EPA did raise additional concerns to ensure protection for the surrounding community.  EPA particularly was concerned about whether water could fill the facility's water cannons quickly enough in the winter. The water cannons spray water to cool tanks in the event of a fire, but water must be manually turned on in the winter to avoid freezing pipes.  Further, due to public concerns over siting of the facility, EPA provided an opportunity for public input before reaching this settlement.  G&U has been responsive addressing concerns raised by EPA throughout the enforcement process.

More information: Clean Air Act 112r and Risk Management Plans: https://www.epa.gov/rmp

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