WASHINGTON – Columbus Manufacturing Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Columbus Foods LLC, will pay more than $600,000 in penalties and spend $6 million in upgrades to settle Clean Air Act violations, US Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Justice announced Jan. 31.
The settlement stems from leaks of anhydrous ammonia in February 2009 and August 2009 at the company's South San Francisco facility, the agencies said in a press release. Seventeen people were hospitalized after exposure to the toxic cloud. As part of the settlement, Columbus will pay a penalty of $685,446 and spend approximately $6 million converting its refrigeration system to a technology that uses glycol and ammonia. The company will also improve its alarm and ammonia release notification procedures, according to the release.
EPA began investigating the incidents following the second leak in August 2009. The agency ordered Columbus to complete initial upgrades to its ammonia refrigeration system, including the replacement of safety relief valves and components with any signs of corrosion, and the proper labeling of all its piping. In 2011, the company paid $850,000 in fines to San Mateo County as a result of the incident, EPA said.