A chemical company said it failed to implement a risk management plan and pleaded guilty Monday to violating the federal Clean Air Act after failing to minimize the chance of releasing highly flammable ethyl ether at its Pawtucket, RI, facility.
Roberts Chemical Company Inc., now based in Attleboro, MA, admitted in U.S. District Court it failed to implement a risk-management plan to reduce the risk of release of the volatile substance at it worksite. In doing so, it failed to adequately protect its workers, the community and emergency responders in the event of a leak or fire. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires that plan.
In exchange for its admissions, federal prosecutors agreed to recommend the company pay a $200,000 fine, across four $50,000 annual payments, and the company receive a sentence of five years’ probation. The company would also have to run an advertisement taking up an eighth of a page in The Providence Journal apologizing for its conduct.
The advertisement would detail the plea deal and that prior to 2009, Roberts Chemical Company violated federal regulations by neglecting to create the required plan. “The company regrets and apologizes for these actions, and has instituted new policies and procedures at our new location to demonstrate our commitment to protecting the environment,” the ad would read. The agreement specifies that it run within 30 days of sentencing by U.S. District Court Judge John J. McConnell Jr. A sentencing date has not been set.
Roberts Chemical stored 27,467 pounds of the highly volatile and flammable ethyl ether at its 258 Pine St. location in Pawtucket, just off Route 95, court documents said. The Clean Air Act specifies that companies storing more than 10,000 pounds of the hazardous substance develop a plan to minimize risk to workers, the public and first responders.
Roberts Chemical was unaware that it was in violation of any EPA regulations at the time of the violation in 2008, but today takes full responsibility for any violation, according to James W. Ryan, lawyer for the company. “None of the chemicals in question were ever introduced into the environment, nor were any people ever exposed to them. Roberts has fully cooperated with the EPA, promptly complied with the regulation and has been in compliance ever since,” Ryan said.