Newport Regional Distribution Facility - Executive Summary
Meijer, Inc. owns and operates a refrigerated distribution facility located approximately five miles north of Monroe, Michigan. The Newport Distribution Facility was constructed in 1990 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. The ammonia used to refrigerate this facility 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 facility was designed and constructed in accordance with c
urrent building and equipment 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 facility 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 Monroe County Emergency Planning Commission and conducts joint training exercises with various local emergency response agencies. All emergency response exercises are evaluated by each of the participating
agencies to improve efficiency.
The Stationary Source and Regulated Substances Handled
The Newport Distribution Facility stores perishable foods and general merchandise for distribution to Meijer retail units. The refrigeration process continuously recycles 25,000 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 25,000 pounds of ammonia from the 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 2.9 miles.
Alternative Release Scenario - This is a release of 13,000 pounds from two 3-inch liquid lines leading into the thermo-siphon tank, and the 4-inch liquid line that exits the tank. Operating pressure at this stage is 98 psi. 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 0.4 miles.
General Accidental Release Prevention and Chemical Specific Prevention Steps
Refrigeration system operators receive operation and safety raining from internal sources, trade associations, and equipment manufacturers, and follow written operating procedures. 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 establish
ed 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 facility 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, th
e 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 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
To continuously improve safety at th
e distribution facility, the Process Safety Management Program will be reviewed periodically and revised as necessary. This process will identify potential hazards, and measures that will prevent an accidental release. Joint emergency response drills will also be conducted regularly with local emergency response agencies to improve response efficiency and maintain procedures that minimize the consequences of a release.