Tyson Foods, Inc. will pay a $3.95 million civil penalty to settle allegations that it violated the Clean Air Act at its facilities, which include meat-processing plants in Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri and Kansas.
The settlement stems from eight incidents between 2006 and 2010 in which accidental releases of anhydrous ammonia, a poisonous gas used as a refrigerant, caused property damage, injuries and one death at Tyson facilities, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Justice Department said Friday.
A 51-year-old maintenance worker at a pizza toppings plant in South Hutchinson, Kan., was killed in 2006 when a pipe fitting ruptured, spraying ammonia in his face, the Associated Press reported at the time.
Investigators also found several instances of noncompliance with the Clean Air Act’s rules for preventing chemical accidents.
Tyson said it disputes many EPA assertions that the company did not comply quickly enough with risk management requirements at some Midwestern facilities, but said its officials "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."
"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 Tyson's chief environmental, health and safety officer.
As part of the agreement, the Springdale, Ark. meat processor will test pipes and conduct audits of its ammonia refrigeration systems in the four states, and will spend at least $300,000 to buy chemical emergency response equipment for fire departments in cities including Omaha, Lexington, Dakota City, and Council Bluffs and Perry, Iowa.