Two $30,000 grants were awarded, one each to Missouri and Iowa state agencies, by the Environmental Protection Agency Seventh District, which serves Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and nine tribal nations.
Each grant was awarded to assist with outreach, education and implementation of the Clean Air Act’s Risk Management Program. EPA’s chemical accident prevention regulations cover approximately 140 hazardous chemicals including anhydrous ammonia, chlorine and highly flammable substances such as propane.
All chemical facilities that handle, process or store a threshold quantity of 500 to 20,000 pounds of regulated chemicals are subject to EPA’s chemical accident prevention requirements. All fertilizer facilities that handle, process or store more than 10,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia are subject to EPA’s chemical safety requirements, too.
The grant to the Missouri State Emergency Agency (SEMA) is part of an ongoing effort to protect human health and the environment by preventing chemical accidents, explained Karl Brooks, regional administrator. “SEMA is receiving this funding to conduct on-site audits at chemical facilities in Missouri.”
The $30,000 Missouri grant is designed to identify chemical facilities that have not reported under the federal regulation and enhance communications with state agencies and regulated facilities. Facilities were first required to be in compliance with the Risk Management Program in 1999. EPA then started facility inspections and enforcement of the program, which includes five components: hazard assessment system, management, accident prevention, emergency response and submittal of a risk management plan.
EPA also awarded the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) $30,000 to assist with implementation of the federal program and specifically to handle outreach and education to operators of the approximate 700 agricultural retail anhydrous ammonia facilities in Iowa and the communities in which they are located.
“This grant is designed to prevent releases and protect the health and safety of area residents, and enhance communications with local emergency responders and regulated facilities,” said Brooks. “IDALS is receiving this funding to conduct on-site audits, workshops and follow-up safety assessments at agricultural retail anhydrous ammonia facilities in Iowa.”
Anhydrous ammonia is generally safe provided handling, storage and maintenance procedures are followed. However, it is toxic and can be a health hazard. Inhaling anhydrous ammonia can cause lung irritation and severe respiratory injuries, it was noted.
EPA Region 7 reported it receives more accidental release reports for ammonia than for any other chemical. In addition to releases caused by transportation accidents, human error and equipment failure, a number of releases have been caused by anhydrous ammonia thefts. Anhydrous ammonia is a key ingredient in the illegal production of methamphetamine. When stolen, the toxic gas can be unintentionally released, causing injuries to emergency responders, law enforcement personnel, the public and the criminals themselves, Brooks explained.
The Seventh District office of the EPA was questioned by e-mail if other grants were awarded, but no response was provided.