Meijer Central Kitchen - Executive Summary
Meijer, Inc. owns and operates a refrigerated food processing plant and distribution facility in Middlebury, Indiana. The Central Kitchen was constructed in 1997 and utilizes anhydrous ammonia as a refrigerant. |
Accidental Release Prevention and Emergency Response
While the EPA classifies anhydrous ammonia as a hazardous substance, it is generally considered safe when the proper operating and maintenance controls are in place. Ammonia that is used as a refrigerant is the same substance that farmers use to fertilize cropland.
Anhydrous ammonia is a colorless gas with a strong pungent odor, similar to household grade ammonia. It is stored in a liquid form under pressure, and can be irritating to the nose, throat, eyes, and skin if released into the air. Direct contact with ammonia can cause burns.
It is Meijer policy to adhere to applicable federal, state and local laws and regulations. The Central Kitchen was designed and constructed in accordance with current building and equipm
ent codes and standards, and personnel are trained to safely operate and maintain the refrigeration system according to design specifications. Meijer is a member of the International Institute of Ammonia Refrigeration (IIAR) and participates in training seminars conducted by the Institute and other organizations. The Central Kitchen is operated and maintained in accordance with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) Process Safety Management Program. Internal and independent audits are conducted periodically to evaluate operating and safety procedures.
To protect employees and the general public in the event of an accidental release, an emergency response plan has been developed in accordance with OSHA standards. Meijer is a member of the Elkhart County Emergency Response Committee.
The Stationary Source and Regulated Substances Handled
The Central Kitchen prepares and stores perishable foods for distribution to Meijer retail units. The refrigeration process
continuously recycles 22,000 pounds of ammonia through a closed-loop system. Access to the facility is restricted to authorized personnel and vendors. The compressor room is kept locked and is restricted to authorized Property Management personnel.
The Worst Case Scenario and the Alternative Release Scenario
Summarized in this section are the release scenarios, including administrative controls and mitigation measures to limit the distances for each reported scenario.
Worst-case Scenario - This is a total release of 22,000 pounds of ammonia from storage vessels, refrigeration equipment, and piping that comprise the system. It is assumed that the contents are released to the atmosphere as a gas. The distance to the endpoint of .14 mg/l (200 ppm) is 2.6 miles.
Alternative Release Scenario -Release of 4,000 pounds from a king valve component of the primary receiver. It is assumed that the contents are released to the atmosphere as a gas. The distance to the endpoint of .14 mg/l
(200 ppm) is 0.3 miles.
General Accidental Release Prevention and Chemical Specific Prevention Steps
Ammonia system operators receive operation and safety training from internal sources, trade associations, and equipment manufacturers. A computer continuously monitors the safe operating limits of the system, and daily system inspections are made via a computer- generated log. Critical equipment such as compressors, condensers, valves, and fittings are also inspected periodically by the operators. Regular preventive maintenance is conducted according to a schedule that was established by Meijer and ammonia system equipment manufacturers. Repair logs are used to record specific repairs, and equipment or process changes are reviewed and approved by the appropriate personnel.
The Central Kitchen was designed with numerous safety systems intended to prevent an accidental release of ammonia. The refrigeration system is equipped with manual and automatic shut off devices to stop the
flow of ammonia if process conditions are exceeded. There are check valves that automatically limit the pressure and direction of ammonia within the piping system, and pressure relief valves that vent ammonia to a safe location if the system is not able to maintain design pressures. The facility has an emergency power supply that is capable of maintaining essential operations during a power outage.
Electronic ammonia sensors in place throughout the facility are designed to detect low concentrations of ammonia and identify the location of a release via computer. In the event of a release, the sensors will automatically trigger an alarm that alerts employees and advises them of the appropriate course of action.
New employees receive safety training that includes information pertaining to the chemical and physical characteristics of anhydrous ammonia, warning properties of ammonia, and procedures for reporting and responding to accidental releases. Warehouse and food processing plan
t employees are instructed to evacuate the building immediately after detecting and reporting an ammonia release or upon hearing the ammonia alarm.
The Emergency Response Program
To minimize the consequences of an accidental release, an emergency response plan has been developed in accordance with OSHA standards 29 CFR 1910.38 and 29 CFR 1910.120(q). Meijer Emergency Response Team Members receive training from internal and outside sources that will enable them to safely respond to an accidental ammonia release in an effort to stop or contain it.
Planned Changes to Improve Safety
The Central Kitchen was constructed in 1997 in compliance with current building and equipment standards.