Lax about safety standards in your plant? Get ready to pay heavy fines

Industrial Accidents

WASHINGTON, Oct. 15  The Justic Department has reportedly fined MFG Chemical, Inc. $270,000 for a toxic release on April 12, 2004 of extremely hazardous chemicals at the company’s Dalton, Ga., plant.

The toxic release resulted from a runaway reaction at the plant leading to an extreme increase in temperature and causing an explosion that released toxic gases to the atmosphere.

The surrounding community within a half mile radius of the MFG plant was evacuated. Several hundred people, some of which were emergency responders, were treated for exposure at the local hospital. One-half mile of vegetation south of the MFG plant was also burned and much of the aquatic life was killed throughout several miles of surrounding creeks.

The complaint, filed today in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, alleges that MFG failed to adhere to the Clean Air Act’s general duty of care provision. The general duty of care requirement obligates companies handling extremely hazardous substances to take preventative measures to identify the risks involved and to reduce the risks by providing layers of protection on their equipment such as high temperature alarms, automatic feed shut off mechanisms, adequate pressure relief systems and a vapor release recovery and containment system. The complaint alleges MFG failed to identify the risk of a runaway reaction through its failure to calculate the temperature/time profile and to have appropriate layers of protection in place prior to the incident.

MFG has implemented measures to address conditions at the plant contributing to the explosion and release, including halting the use of allyl alcohol and hiring an experienced safety engineer to oversee its compliance with its Clean Air Act obligations. MFG also paid for the clean up of surrounding contaminated creeks.

Copies of the stipulation of settlement are available on the Department of Justice Web site at: http://www.usdoj.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html