A facility accident in 2018 caused Saputo Cheese to release gallons of anhydrous ammonia that violated EPA’s Clean Air Act
TULARE – The Environmental Protection Agency came to a settlement with Saputo Cheese USA Inc. located in Tulare on Aug. 17 over violations of the Clean Air Act.
Saputo Cheese USA Inc. will pay a civil fine of $170,000 to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for violating the Clean Air Act in 2018 when a facility accident caused 5,690 pounds of anhydrous ammonia, a toxic gas that can have adverse effects of the respiratory system, to release into the atmosphere in Tulare.
“Saputo Dairy USA has already taken significant measures to address all of the EPA’s noted areas of concern, and work is ongoing to fix the remaining issue related to safety vents,” the communications department for Saputo Cheese said. “As a large employer in the Tulare community, Saputo Dairy USA remains committed to being a good neighbor and a safe employer.”
The EPA returned in 2019 for an inspection to find the Saputo Cheese facility had not fixed corrosion on their pipes and structures, while also failing to meet safety standards on vents. Saputo Cheese also provided inaccurate reports of stored ammonia. The communications department at Saputo Cheese confirmed they are continuing to invest and research ways to be up to date with EPA regulations and safety vent standards.
EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Martha Guzman stated that when large companies do not properly handle dangerous chemicals and substances, the EPA will not hesitate to bring about penalties.
The Mississippi State Department of Health states anhydrous ammonia can lead to lung irritation, respiratory injuries and fatality. It is also corrosive and can burn the skin and eyes. Not only does the toxic gas affect Tulare residents when inhaled, but the Mississippi State Department of Health also states that workers who handle the substance are at a much higher risk of injury.
The EPA did report that since inspection in 2019, Saputo Cheese has corrected its violations.