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Last week the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency fined the U.S. Department of the Interior $7,500 for failing to maintain its plan that outlines how its water treatment plant in Yuma, Ariz. will respond to accidental chemical releases, as required by the Clean Air Act.
The DOI has already paid the penalty and corrected the violations.
The DOI's Yuma desalting plant, 7301 Calle Agua Salada, failed to maintain records showing that its chlorine gas system was operating properly and that its employees were properly trained in handling any accidental chemical releases.
As part of a new enforcement policy, the EPA offered the DOI a reduced penalty because the agency acted quickly to correct the problems and pay the fine, and the facility presents a relatively low risk to the public.
"It is critical that facilities handling hazardous chemicals keep their plans up-to-date to ensure the safety of area residents," said Keith Takata, director of the EPA's Superfund division for the Pacific Southwest Region. "These plans are available to the public and can be useful for citizens in understanding potential chemical hazards in their communities."
The EPA's regulations require all facilities using hazardous substances above specified threshold quantities to develop chemical risk management plans. The Yuma plant has 4,000 pounds of chlorine on-site, which is almost two times the EPA's threshold quantity.
Chlorine is a toxic, greenish-yellow gas commonly used to purify water. Exposure to low concentrations of chlorine can cause intense coughing and breathing problems. Long-term exposure to chlorine can lead to chronic bronchitis.
The plan must include an assessment of the potential effects of an accidental release, history of accidents over the past five years and employee training. The plan must also include an emergency response program that outlines procedures for informing the public and response agencies, such as the police and fire departments, in the event of an accident.
The Yuma desalting plant collects and treats drainage water from farms east of Yuma. The plant uses chlorine gas to kill bacteria that may be present in the water. The treated water is used primarily for agricultural research and development.