PROVIDENCE – According to documents filed in U.S. District Court in Providence, an East Providence ice company is set to plead guilty to violating the Clean Air Act by repeatedly failing to implement a Risk Management Plan (RMP) to be executed in the event of an accidental release of anhydrous ammonia, an extremely hazardous substance.
According to court documents, J.P. Lillis Enterprises, Inc., D/B/A Cape Cod Ice, a cold storage warehouse and ice manufacturing facility that stores up over 10,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia at its facility located on the banks of the Seekonk River, in an industrial area near a residential area, and in the vicinity of an elementary school, was assessed a civil penalty by the Environmental Protection Agency as far back as 2012 for failing to develop and submit an RMP, and since has been repeatedly found to contain equipment in need of repair to avoid a potential release of anhydrous ammonia.
Subsequent inspections by EPA, OSHA, and the East Providence Fire Department found the existence of corrosion on ammonia-carrying pipes and on the facility’s high- pressure ammonia receiver, the failure of corrosion-preventing insulation on the pipes, and inadequate inspection, testing, and maintenance of the ammonia piping and receiver.
United States Attorney Aaron L. Weisman and Tyler Amon, Special Agent in Charge of the Environmental Protection Agency Criminal Investigation Division Boston Area Office, announced today that Cape Cod Ice has agreed to pay a $90,000 fine; serve a term of three years federal supervised release; and will, within 90 days of sentencing, engage a qualified independent ammonia refrigeration consultant to conduct an audit that (1) evaluates Cape Cod Ice’s compliance with the Clean Air Act and address deficiencies identified by the EPA, OSHA, and East Providence Fire Department and (2) includes a required maintenance inspection program.
According to a Plea Agreement filed in this matter, Cape Cod Ice will submit to the United States Attorney’s Office and to United States Probation within 30 days of the completion of the audit an action plan to address the findings of the audit and a timeline of completion of actions to be taken by the company.
According to court documents, in 2015, Cape Cod Ice repaired the corroded receiver and certified to OSHA that it had corrected the cited violations. Cape Cod Ice provided OSHA a preventative maintenance program contract with an outside consultant as evidence of its corrective actions; that contract was never signed or implemented.
Cape Cod Ice also sent to OSHA a process hazard analysis performed by an outside consultant which contained recommendations to prevent a catastrophic ammonia release; all recommendations were not implemented.
Outside consultants also performed an audit of the RMP Program and a mechanical integrity inspection which contained recommendations; all recommendations were not implemented.
In January of 2017, EPA sent a letter to Cape Code Ice, urging Cape Cod Ice to ensure compliance with the RMP requirements. In April of 2017, EPA inspected the facility and again observed numerous violations of the RMP and PSM regulations, including the existence of corrosion on ammonia-carrying pipes and on the facility’s high-pressure ammonia receiver, and the failure of corrosion-preventing insulation on the pipes. In June of 2017, EPA also issued an Administrative Compliance Order to Cape Cod Ice.
In May of 2017, the East Providence Fire Department inspected the facility and issued a Notice of Violation finding, among other things, that ammonia piping was rusted and showed signs of excessive corrosion, with areas that had moldy insulation or no insulation; and that the ammonia receiver was corroded. The Fire Department ordered the facility to come into compliance. Cape Cod Ice has submitted reports to the East Providence Fire Department and to EPA indicating that it has taken steps to bring the facility into compliance.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Terrence P. Donnelly, with the assistance of Dianne Chabot, EPA Regional Criminal Enforcement Counsel.
The matter was investigated by the EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division.