SPRINGDALE, Ark. – Tyson Foods, Inc. announced the company has worked with the Environmental Protection Agency to resolve concerns about maintenance of refrigeration systems at the company's plants in four states.
EPA claimed Tyson had not complied quickly enough with several Risk Management Plan requirements at some facilities in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska, according to Tyson. Company officials disputed many of the EPA’s assertions, but acknowledge 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, the company said.
However, the new program will build upon Tyson Foods’ existing RMPs for the company’s refrigeration systems, which use anhydrous ammonia as a refrigerant. The plans are designed to prevent chemical emergencies by requiring a systematic process for managing chemical hazards, including training, worker communication, maintenance and other activities, according to Tyson.
“We strive to operate our facilities responsibly, so after learning of EPA’s concerns we immediately made improvements and cooperated with EPA officials throughout the process,” said Kevin Igli, senior vice president and chief Environmental, Health and Safety Officer of Tyson Foods. “We also agreed to develop a third-party audit system at the facilities involved to assure EPA these plants are in compliance with all aspects of our Risk Management Plan obligations.
“In fact, we expect this auditing system to become a model provision that EPA may require from other industrial users of anhydrous ammonia or other chemicals, including other agricultural and food companies,” he added.
In addition to the audits, Tyson Foods will pay a civil penalty of $3.95 million and provide $300,000 to help purchase emergency response equipment for fire departments in nine communities where it operates plants. The communities include: Council Bluffs, Iowa (two facilities); Dexter, Mo.; Monett, Mo.; Omaha, Neb.; Noel, Mo.; Perry, Iowa; Lexington, Neb.; and Dakota City, Neb.
Other locations covered in the agreement with EPA include: Cherokee, Iowa; Columbus Junction, Iowa; Denison, Iowa; Sioux City, Iowa; Emporia, Kan.; South Hutchinson, Kan.; Hutchinson, Kan.; Sedalia, Mo.; Madison, Neb.; Concordia, Mo.; Finney County, Kan.; Montgomery City, Mo.; Olathe, Kan.; Storm Lake, Iowa; and Waterloo Iowa (two facilities).