ST. LOUIS, Missouri - Tyson Foods has agreed to pay a $3.95 million fine to settle alleged violations of federal Clean Air Act regulations covering the prevention of chemical accidents at its processing facilities in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska.
The agreement is part of a consent decree lodged Friday by the U.S. Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency in U.S. District Court in St. Louis, Mo.
The settlement stems from a series of eight separate incidents between 2006 and 2010 in which accidental releases of anhydrous ammonia at Tyson facilities resulted in property damage, multiple injuries, and a fatality.
Tyson Foods, the world's largest processor and marketer of chicken, beef and pork, operates plants in Cherokee, Columbus Junction, Council Bluffs, Denison, Perry, Sioux City, Storm Lake and Waterloo.
The Springdale, Ark., company has agreed to conduct pipe testing and third-party audits of its ammonia refrigeration systems to improve compliance with the Clean Air Act's risk management program requirements at all 23 of its Midwest processing plants.
Tyson Foods' plants are subject to the risk management program requirements because their refrigeration systems each contain more than 10,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia. The facilities have a combined inventory of more than 1.7 million pounds of the chemical.
"Exposure to anhydrous ammonia can cause serious health issues, and in extreme cases, even death," said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "The settlement with Tyson Foods will ensure the proper safety practices are in place in the future to protect employees, first responders and communities located near processing facilities."
Tyson Foods, in addition to paying the civil penalty and performing the pipe testing and third-party audits, will spend at least $300,000 as part of a Supplemental Environmental Project. The company will purchase emergency response equipment for fire departments in eight communities where it has operations, including Council Bluffs and Perry.