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Millard reaches $3 mil deal over ammonia release that sickened workers

The EPA, U.S. Dept. of Justice announced a $3 mil settlement with Millard Refrigerated Services on Tues.The EPA, U.S. Dept. of Justice announced a $3 mil settlement with Millard Refrigerated Services on Tues.

— The U.S. Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency announced a settlement with Georgia-based Millard Refrigerated Services on Tuesday to resolve violations of the Clean Air Act, in connection with the airborne release of ammonia in 2010 which caused more than 150 workers responding to the BP (LONDON:BP) oil spill to become ill.

On August 23, 2010, the company’s warehouse in Theodore, Alabama, released more than 30,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia in the air after its refrigeration equipment malfunctioned. Millard agreed to pay a fine of $3 million as part of the settlement.

Anhydrous ammonia is a toxic gas that in sufficient qualities can be fatal, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms of anhydrous ammonia exposure include: breathing difficulty, irritation of the ears, nose and throat, burns and blisters.

The ammonia traveled directly over a site where more than 800 people were working on decontaminating ships responding to the cleanup of the Deepwater Horizon explosion several months earlier. A branch of the Emergency Management Agency in Mobile, Alabama ordered an evacuation of the surrounding area following the release. Theodore is located approximately 15 miles south of Mobile off the Gulf of Mexico.

During the outbreak, 152 workers in the area were treated for symptoms of ammonia exposure, including four, which received treatment in the intensive care units at hospitals in the Mobile-area. One of the workers briefly lost consciousness after suffering ammonia inhalation.

“The EPA is serious about holding companies that threaten people’s health and safety accountable,” said Cynthia Gilles, an assistant administrator in the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “It’s imperative that companies that use and store potentially-hazardous materials like ammonia ensure their operations do not pose a health risk to their employees or the public.”

During a subsequent investigation, the EPA found that the company did not address a risk inherent in ammonia production systems, known as hydraulic shock, which can result in catastrophic equipment failures. The oversight resulted in 37 distinct violations of the Clean Air Act, according to the criminal complaint in the case.

Millard was acquired by Lineage Logistics Holdings LLC in March, 2014, in a deal valued at approximately $1 billion. Lineage Logistics, which is owned by private equity firm Bay Grove Capital, is one of the largest temperature-controlled warehousing and logistics companies in North America.

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