The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a settlement with Hawaii Gas on Wednesday for a total penalty of $155,000 for risk management plan and chemical release reporting violations at its facility in Kapolei.
"Risk management plans are critical components of safety programs designed to prevent chemical accidents," said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA's Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. "They must be carried out diligently to protect workers, nearby residents and the local environment."
The Kapolei facility manufactures synthetic natural gas for use on Oahu. In January 2012, the EPA conducted an inspection of the facility, which included an audit of records going back five years. The EPA's inspection found several violations of the risk management plan regulations. The company subsequently corrected the violations and agreed to pay a penalty of $136,000.
Inspectors also found that on Sept. 4, 2010, the facility released 3,585 pounds of sodium hydroxide, also known as caustic soda or lye. Although this amount was above the federal reportable quantity of 1,000 pounds, it was only reported to state and local authorities, and not to the federal National Response Center.
The release has since been reported to the NRC and the company also agreed to pay a penalty of $19,000. No health or environmental impacts resulted from the release, which was made to a permitted underground injection well.
Hawaii Gas violated the risk management plan regulations by failing to do the following, according to the EPA:
• Certify annually that its operating procedures were current and accurate.
• Provide refresher training to employees to assure they understand and adhere to the operating procedures.
• Ensure that the frequency of inspections and tests of equipment were consistent with good engineering practices and manufacturer recommendations.
• Conduct a compliance audit every three years.
• Track and implement the facility’s own recommendations from its most recent draft compliance audit report.
Hawaii Gas released the following statement:
"Hawaii Gas takes workplace and environmental health and safety very seriously. It is an important priority for us. We take responsibility for any violations that have occurred, and have worked cooperatively with the EPA to immediately address any issues with environmental compliance and we are now in full conpliance. At no point was there any threat to the safety of the public or our employees."
"Over the past two years we have updated and implemented new procedures, systems and training at the SNG Plant."
"To provide greater executive oversight in this area, we have hired Jack Grimmer as Vice President of Environmental Health & Safety and Quality Assurance. Jack has over 25 years of experience in EHS, and will focus on setting the strategic direction of the department, while overseeing compliance, technical training and quality assurance. He reports directly to President & CEO, Alicia Moy."
The action is taken under the Clean Air Act's risk management plan regulations. The risk management plan requirements include developing a hazard assessment detailing the potential effects of an accidental release; a prevention program that includes safety precautions and maintenance, monitoring, and employee training measures; and an emergency response program that spells out emergency health care, employee training measures and procedures for informing the public and local response agencies should an accident occur.
When properly implemented, risk management plans help prevent chemical releases and minimize their potential impacts at facilities that store large amounts of hazardous substances and flammable chemicals. Facilities are required to update and resubmit their risk management plan at least once every five years, which is used by the EPA to assess chemical risks to nearby communities and to prepare for emergency responses.