Hanson Cold Storage Co. - Benton Harbor Division - Executive Summary

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The Hanson Cold Storage Co. - Benton Harbor Division facility located in Benton Harbor, Michigan is a cold storage warehouse that has a refrigeration system containing ammonia which is considered toxic by EPA. The primary purpose of this warehouse is to store products for various companies at either subzero temperatures or at "refrigerator" temperature to preserve and / or extend the life of the product.  The warehouse started up the ammonia refrigeration system in October 1954 and is continually upgrading the equipment. 
Ammonia is used at the warehouse to refrigerate rooms to maintain a correct temperature as required by the customer.  Ammonia is a valuable chemical used in the warehouse refrigeration system, providing the means to maintain specified temperature and / or remove heat from the products being handled.  Ammonia is contained in equipment in the warehouse and is compressed, condensed and evaporated to remove heat from rooms within the warehouse. 
Since ammonia is classifie 
d by EPA as a toxic chemical, it is necessary to observe certain safety precautions in handling the chemical to prevent unnecessary human exposure, to reduce the health threat to our own workers, and reduce the threat to nearby members of the community.  It is our policy to adhere to all Federal and State rules and regulations.  Safety depends upon the manner in which we handle ammonia combined with the safety devices inherent in the design of this warehouse.   
The warehouse was constructed using codes and standards existing at the time, including the International Institute of Ammonia Refrigeration (IIAR) guidelines as appropriate, and is in compliance with state codes.  This cold storage warehouse complies with EPAs Accidental Release Prevention Rule and with all applicable state codes and regulations.  
The warehouse ammonia refrigeration operators are trained using various methods such as on the job training, tapes and literature from the Refrigerating Engineers and Technicians A 
ssociation (RETA), a nationally recognized authority in ammonia refrigeration, and contractor explanation and training (contractors are members of IIAR).  This program consists of having an effective preventative maintenance program and employee training to insure adequate response to equipment integrity.     
The emergency response program is based upon federal guidelines as they apply to this warehouse.  The emergency action plan includes procedures for notification of the local fire authority, local emergency response agencies, and notification of any potentially affected neighbors. The warehouse emergency action plan is based on all known applicable regulations and requirements.  The emergency action plan has been discussed with the Sodus Fire Department, Berrien County Hazmat Team, and other agencies involved with a response.  Representatives of the Sodus Fire Department and/or Berrien County Hazmat Team visit this plant on an annual or more frequent basis.   
The warehouse is not 
an emergency responder, however, select warehouse staff are trained in response and are able to assist the local Hazmat Team at their request.  The local Berrien County Hazmat Team can respond and be at the warehouse within 10 minutes of notification.  
The warehouse has had two reportable ammonia releases in the past 5 year history.  The first release occurred in 1995 when a safety relief valve opened and released ammonia vapor.  The condition was corrected within 15 minutes.  No one was injured on or off site, and there was no property damage.  The second release occurred in 1998 as a result of a forklift vehicle hitting a ammonia hot gas pipe resulting in an ammonia vapor release.  The only injury was to the forklift driver who was treated at the medical clinic and was released for return to work in the same day.  No one off site was injured and off site evacuation or shelter in place was not necessary. The only area within the building requiring evacuation was the room where the r 
elease occurred and the nearby warehouse office.   
The worst case release scenario for ammonia as defined by EPA, is from the outside high pressure receiver (this vessel is new and placed in service as of 1998) and could extend beyond the Hanson Cold Storage Co. Benton Harbor Division property.  An alternative, more likely, release scenario could extend just beyond the property boundary but not in all directions.   
In all cases of a potential release, the extent of downwind areas affected is dependent on the amount of chemical released, weather conditions, wind speed and direction, etc..
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