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Ventura Coastal agrees to $270,000 penalty for Clean Air Act Violations at Visalia facility

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced a settlement with Ventura Coastal, LLC, to resolve Clean Air Act chemical risk management violations at its citrus processing facility located in Visalia, California. The facility improperly managed refrigeration equipment containing more than 10,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia and will pay $270,000 in civil penalties.

On May 21, 2019, EPA inspected the Visalia facility and determined that Ventura Coastal violated provisions of Section 112(r) of the Clean Air Act, which governs extremely hazardous substances such as anhydrous ammonia. EPA found that the company failed to keep up-to-date information on equipment, failed to label piping and equipment, did not adequately describe maintenance and inspection frequencies for equipment and instrumentation, failed to inspect equipment and correct deficiencies, and did not address internal audit and incident investigation findings in a timely manner.

“It is so critical that facilities like the Ventura Coastal citrus processing plant in Visalia prevent dangerous incidents by handling extremely hazardous substances properly. If they violate the law, they will face Clean Air Act penalties,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Martha Guzman. “This settlement will protect the nearby Visalia community from future chemical accidents and minimize the danger if incidents do occur again.”

This settlement advances EPA’s efforts to enforce environmental regulations that protect citizens from harmful releases of extremely hazardous substances, especially in communities that may already experience disproportionate environmental risks. Ventura Coastal’s Visalia facility is in a community that is disproportionally affected by environmental burdens, and incidents like this raise significant environmental justice concerns.

Anhydrous Ammonia
Thousands of facilities nationwide make, use, and store extremely hazardous substances, including anhydrous ammonia. Anhydrous ammonia can cause serious, often irreversible health effects when released. In addition to potential impacts from inhalation of or skin contact with this substance, it is highly flammable.

Catastrophic accidents at ammonia refrigeration facilities—historically about 150 each year—result in fatalities and serious injuries, evacuations, and other harm to human health and the environment. EPA inspected Ventura Coastal’s Visalia facility as part of the Agency’s National Compliance Initiative, which seeks to reduce risk to human health and the environment by decreasing the likelihood of accidental releases and mitigating the consequences of chemical accidents.

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