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Chemical company reaches EPA settlement over Clean Air Act … – The Boston Globe

PROVIDENCE – The nation’s largest commodity and specialty chemical and ingredient distributor will pay $800,000 to settle allegations that it failed to follow accident-prevention rules in the Clean Air Act, putting communities – including Providence – at higher risk, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said.
Univar Solutions USA Inc. has facilities around the country, including at ProvPort. The EPA alleged that Univar failed to comply with industry standards of care under Clean Air Act regulations for chemicals like anhydrous ammonia, aqueous ammonia, chlorine, and formaldehyde at facilities in Pennsylvania, Colorado, and Rhode Island.
The Illinois-based company will pay $600,000 in penalties and spend at least $200,000 for emergency response equipment for fire departments in Colorado and Pennsylvania. It also requires Univar to implement safety measures at their facilities, said Larry Starfield, the acting assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. The settlement was announced Thursday.
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“Univar Solutions takes our responsibility to protect our communities and the environment very seriously, which is why we worked collaboratively with the EPA during their investigation and took all necessary steps to enhance the safety at five of our chemical distribution facilities,” spokesman Dwayne Roark said in an email.
Univar is a tenant of ProvPort, the nonprofit port operator within the broader Port of Providence. The Providence City Council has been considering a long-term lease and tax deal extension with ProvPort. Local environmental groups had said the deal was being rushed through without enough scrutiny of the effects the Port of Providence has on surrounding neighborhoods, which are disproportionately exposed to the risks of pollution and industrial processes.
The City Council late last year gave an early approval for the extension, but it would still need to be approved again this year by a newly constituted council before it becomes law.
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Environmental justice advocates have pointed to the Univar fine as an example of why they tried to stop the deal from being “fast-tracked.”
ProvPort, meanwhile, said it welcomed the settlement.
“We expect all of our tenants to comply with state and federal safety regulations, so we are pleased with this outcome,” Bill Fischer, a spokesman for the organization, said in an email Monday.
The EPA’s allegations stem from November 2019 inspections at Univar’s Providence facilities — its chemical blending, repackaging and distribution facility on Harborside Boulevard, and its chemical storage warehouse and distribution and shipping facility on Terminal Road.
In all, the EPA listed 22 violations associated with the two facilities, including failing to properly label chlorine and ammonia pipes, failing to label above-ground storage tanks, not having the right panic hardware to allow emergency exiting from the perimeter fence, and allowing the tank saddle on a bulk ammonia storage tank to “show signs of having shifted over time.”
Univar also stored chemicals next to each other that shouldn’t have been next to each other, like sulfuric acid next to potassium hydroxide and ammonium hydroxide and nitric acid next to potassium permanganate, ammonium persulfate, and hydrogen peroxide, according to the EPA’s allegations.
Brian Amaral can be reached at brian.amaral@globe.com. Follow him @bamaral44.

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