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Tyson Settles Plant Refrigeration Dispute

09 April 2013

US – US poultry processor Tyson Foods, has settled its dispute with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over the maintenance of refrigeration systems at food production plants in four states.

As part of teh settlement Tyson has agreed to pay a fine of nearly $4 million as well as building a special programme aimed at meeting Risk Management Plan (RMP) requirements of the federal Clean Air Act at 23 Tyson Foods facilities in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska.

The new programme will build upon Tyson Foods’ existing Risk Management Plans for the company’s refrigeration systems, which use anhydrous ammonia as a refrigerant.

The plans are designed to prevent chemical emergencies by requiring a systematic process for managing chemical hazards, including training, worker communication, maintenance and other activities.

The EPA said the company had not complied quickly enough with several RMP requirements at some facilities located within EPA Region 7 (Midwest).

Tyson disputed many of the EPA’s assertions, but acknowledged there was a period when some refrigeration improvement projects fell behind schedule and tghe company did not meet all the obligations required under the programme 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 chief Environmental, Health and Safety Officer of Tyson Foods.

“We also agreed to develop a third-party audit system at the facilities involved to assure EPA these plants are in compliance with all aspects of our Risk Management Plan obligations,” Mr Igli said.

“In fact, we expect this auditing system to become a model provision that EPA may require from other industrial users of anhydrous ammonia or other chemicals, including other agricultural and food companies.”

In addition to the audits, Tyson Foods has agreed to pay a civil penalty of $3.95 million. The company will also provide $300,000 to help purchase emergency response equipment for fire departments in nine communities where it operates plants.

Tyson Foods and EPA officials chose the communities and contacted fire department officials in each city to determine their equipment needs. The communities include: Council Bluffs, Iowa (two facilities); Dexter, Missouri; Monett, Missouri; Omaha, Nebraska; Noel, Missouri; Perry, Iowa; Lexington, Nebraska; and Dakota City, Nebraska.

The other plant locations covered in the agreement with EPA include: Cherokee, Iowa; Columbus Junction, Iowa; Denison, Iowa; Sioux City, Iowa; Emporia, Kansas; South Hutchinson, Kansas; Hutchinson, Kansas; Sedalia, Missouri; Madison, Nebraska; Concordia, Missouri; Finney County, Kansas; Montgomery City, Missouri; Olathe, Kansas; Storm Lake, Iowa; and Waterloo Iowa (two facilities).

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