Hawaii Gas reached a deal with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for a $155,000 fine for risk management plan and chemical release reporting violations at its facility in Kapolei, Oahu.
“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 EPA conducted an inspection of the facility, which included an audit of records going back five years. 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 on September 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, the company only reported it to state and local authorities, and not to the federal National Response Center (NRC). The release has since gone over 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 went to a permitted underground injection well.
Hawaii Gas violated the risk management plan regulations by failing to:
• 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 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.
The action occurred 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 must update and resubmit their risk management plan at least once every five years, which the EPA uses to assess chemical risks to nearby communities and to prepare for emergency responses.