EPA Sets Chlorine Safety Plan for Utilities Co.

EPA Sets Chlorine Safety Plan for Utilities Co.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reached a compliance agreement with the Commonwealth Utilities Corporation to resolve claims of Clean Air Act violations at its bulk chlorine storage site in Saipan. Under this agreement, within one year the CUC must meet requirements including updating the facility’s Risk Management Plan and addressing all areas of concern identified through prior EPA inspections.

CUC is a state government corporation that operates the electric power, water and wastewater services on the three main islands of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands: Saipan, Tinian and Rota. CUC is an autonomous agency of the CNMI government.

“The CUC needs improvements in its plan for managing potential chemical accidents, to both prevent dangerous chlorine releases and – should an accident happen – be in a position to effectively respond,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Martha Guzman. “Today’s action will safeguard public health, protecting nearby residents and businesses against potential releases of a very dangerous chemical.”

Also Read: Four Lessons from Chlorine Leaks

The storage site was constructed in 2018 in response to a 2009 Stipulated Order to ensure the CUC’s wastewater and drinking water systems were compliant with the Clean Water Act. The facility stores over 2,500 pounds of chlorine gas in 150-pound metal cylinders that are used for water treatment. Facilities that store 2,500 pounds or more of chlorine must comply with RMP requirements.

Also Read: New Hazmat Guide for Orphan Chlorine Container Response

EPA conducted two inspections, one in 2021 and one in 2023, that identified several areas of concern. These included, but were not limited to, failure to:

  • Register the new storage site’s RMP with EPA and update the plan once the facility was operational.
  • Maintain the storage site adequately, to include ensuring effective cooling so that the chlorine was stored correctly and putting into place sealed doors to secure chlorine during an accidental release.
  • Train personnel on proper use of the chlorine emergency kits and coordinate emergency response with local responders to help minimize releases if they do occur.
  • Calibrate and fix chlorine sensors.
  • Test effectiveness of the scrubber media used to filter chlorine during an accidental release.

Legally mandated RMPs must identify the potential effects of a chemical accident, steps the facility is taking to prevent an accident, and emergency response procedures should an accident occur. These plans also provide valuable information to local emergency response personnel to prepare for and respond to chemical emergencies in their community.

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