New Bedford Company Fined by EPA After Massive Ammonia Spill
NEW BEDFORD — A New Bedford cold storage company has paid nearly $200,000 to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to settle claims that it violated federal safety laws relating to handling hazardous chemicals — namely, ammonia.
The EPA said Maritime International, Inc. and its subsidiaries paid the penalty and will also supply emergency equipment to the New Bedford Fire Department after allegedly causing a massive ammonia spill on Fish Island in 2018.
Maritime — known for its iconic building with a whale mural off Route 18 — allegedly violated federal laws at facilities in both New Bedford and East Hartford, Connecticut, the EPA wrote in a March 22 statement.
The company also allegedly failed to alert state and local emergency agencies of its hazardous chemical inventory, according to the EPA.
In the Fish Island spill, around 3,200 pounds of ammonia were accidentally released into the environment.
Ammonia is used as a refrigerant, but is also highly corrosive to skin, eyes, and lungs and can be deadly in high concentrations.
It is also flammable or explosive under certain conditions.
An EPA inspection following the Fish Island incident revealed the alleged violations at Maritime facilities in New Bedford and East Hartford, although the Connecticut facility has since closed.
The agency said Maritime has been cooperative and took all necessary steps to comply with federal safety regulations.
Maritime paid a penalty of over $195,000 and will also spend around $163,000 on environmental projects.
These include safety upgrades to two New Bedford facilities as well as providing emergency equipment and training to local first responders, including the New Bedford Fire Department.
New Bedford has several refrigeration facilities that use ammonia and has seen a number of dangerous spills of the chemical in recent years, according to the EPA.
"When a company like Maritime International does not comply with its safety obligations, it threatens the safety of our communities," said EPA New England Regional Administrator David Cash.
"This case clearly illustrates the critical importance of complying with chemical accident planning, prevention, and mitigation requirements."
Maritime representatives could not immediately be reached for comment.
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