MFG Chemical Inc. has agreed to pay $270,000 in civil penalties to resolve claims resulting from a toxic release on April 12, 2004 of extremely hazardous chemicals at the company’s Dalton, Ga., plant, the Justice Department announced.
The toxic release resulted from a runaway reaction at the plant when MFG, upon its initial production run for triallyl cyanuarate, mixed allyl alcohol with other chemicals, leading to an extreme increase in temperature and causing an explosion that released toxic gases to the atmosphere.
As a result, the surrounding community within a half mile radius of the MFG plant was evacuated. More than 150 people, including several emergency responders, were treated for exposure at the local hospital. One-half mile of vegetation south of the MFG plant was also burned and much of the aquatic life was killed throughout several miles of surrounding creeks which were contaminated by the water sprayed on the toxic vapor cloud in an attempt to control the vapor release.
The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, alleges that MFG failed to adhere to the Clean Air Act’s general duty of care provision. The general duty of care requirement obligates companies handling extremely hazardous substances to take preventative measures to identify the risks involved and to reduce the risks by providing layers of protection on their equipment such as high temperature alarms, automatic feed shut off mechanisms, adequate pressure relief systems and a vapor release recovery and containment system. The complaint alleges MFG failed to identify the risk of a runaway reaction through its failure to calculate the temperature/time profile and to have appropriate layers of protection in place prior to the incident.
MFG has implemented measures to address conditions at the plant contributing to the explosion and release, including halting the use of allyl alcohol and hiring an experienced safety engineer to oversee its compliance with its Clean Air Act obligations. MFG also paid for the clean up of surrounding contaminated creeks. The $270,000 reflects the civil penalty that the United States determined MFG has the financial ability to pay.