Ammonia RMP General Duty

Ammonia RMP and General Duty – Region 1

Ammonia, RMP, and General Duty

Recently Janet Bowen from EPA Region 1 posted a PowerPoint for Anhydrous Ammonia, General Duty, and RMP for warehouses and distribution facilities.  Below are some of the common compliance issues:

• Identifying Hazards

• Operating Activities

• Maintenance/Mechanical Integrity

• Emergency Actions

• Consider Risks from Climate Change

Although anhydrous ammonia is an effective refrigerant, it is also a toxic chemical that can injure or kill people when accidentally released.  In 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) launched a pilot initiative to improve compliance with the General Duty Clause (GDC) of Section 112(r) of the Clean Air Act at New England facilities with small ammonia refrigeration systems. Section 112(r) of the Clean Air Act aims to prevent accidental releases of substances that can cause serious harm to the public and the environment. Larger ammonia refrigeration facilities are subject to the Risk Management regulations issued by EPA, but facilities that use fewer than 10,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia are subject to the three duties of the GDC instead. Region 1 estimates that approximately 80% of the ammonia refrigeration facilities in New England have fewer than 10,000 pounds of ammonia and so are subject to the GDC instead of the RMP regulations. Facilities that fail to comply with the requirements put facility personnel, employees of adjacent businesses, emergency responders, and the local population and environment at risk of harm from such releases.

Through its GDC Initiative, EPA Region 1 is working to improve compliance with the first GDC requirement — that facilities must identify hazards that may result from accidental releases using appropriate hazard assessment techniques. EPA has completed three rounds of the GDC Initiative and has started a fourth. The effort features extensive compliance assistance activities, which have reached hundreds of facilities. This has included ammonia safety trainings in all six New England states, an ammonia refrigeration webinar, training specific to ice rinks, ammonia table-top emergency response exercises, and informative letters and emails to facilities with ammonia refrigeration systems and their contractors.

So far, EPA has also issued information request letters to 50 companies and entered into Expedited Settlement Agreements (ESAs) with seven facilities that had not yet completed process hazard reviews. In the latest two rounds, East Bay Ice Co., Inc. (East Providence, RI), Coke Northeast (East Hartford, CT), and United Natural Foods, Inc. (Chesterfield, NH) each resolved a GDC violation with a significantly reduced penalty for completing a process hazard review with assistance from a third-party expert and meeting with emergency responders to plan for a potential release from the facility. As a result, all 50 of the facilities thus far have reported that they are now in compliance with the first duty of the GDC, 34 of those (including the ESAs) occurring after the start of outreach about the Initiative. Also, EPA learned from course evaluation forms that more facilities planned to conduct a process hazard review.

Common citations and issues found throughout region. 

  • Failure to account for the chemicals in all containers (including aerosol cans, cylinders, storage tanks, etc.) that could be affected by the same emergency event, such as a fire.
  • Failure to file and implement an RMP, often because insufficient inventory facility management systems failed to flag that chemical inventories had exceeded regulatory thresholds.
  • Failure to include the entire weight of a flammable mixture with a National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) flammability rating of 4 in threshold calculations, not just the amounts of Risk Management Program listed chemicals
  • Failure to sufficiently coordinate with local emergency responders; local fire departments had safety concerns about some facilities.
  • Failure to complete a CISA CFATS Top- Screen, as well as not utilizing predictive filing to determine all reportable chemicals of interest.

ARTS – Ammonia Refrigeration Training Solutions