The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has worked with The Fertilizer Institute to develop a Web-based compliance assistance tool for agricultural fertilizer retailers. All fertilizer facilities that handle, process or store anhydrous ammonia above a threshold quantity of 10,000 pounds are subject to chemical safety requirements within the Risk Management Program or RMP.
"These materials outline an approach to compliance that will be very helpful to fertilizer facilities covered by the Risk Management Program," says John Askew, Region 7 EPA administrator in Kansas City. "This is an effective user-friendly tool for nearly 2,000 facilities in Region 7 that handle anhydrous ammonia."
The materials provide practical advice, insights and guidelines for better understanding the RMP and its implementation, particularly as it applies to facilities in the retail ammonia fertilizer industry.
EPA begins inspection and enforcement
Retailers were first required to be in compliance with the RMP by June 21, 1999. EPA has started facility inspections and enforcement of the RMP, which includes five components: hazard assessment, management system, accident prevention program, emergency response program and risk management plan.
The RMP exempts ammonia when held by farmers for use on a farm under their control. This exemption applies to ammonia when used as a fertilizer by the farmer. The exemption does not apply to ag suppliers or fertilizer manufacturers.
Anhydrous ammonia is used widely and in large quantities for various purposes. More than 80% of the ammonia produced in the U.S. is used for agricultural purposes; less than 2% is used for refrigeration. Anhydrous is generally safe provided the proper handling, operating and maintenance procedures are followed. However, it is toxic and can be a health hazard. Effects of inhalation of anhydrous ammonia range from lung irritation to severe respiratory injuries.
Ammonia thefts are still a problem
EPA Region 7 receives more accidental release reports for ammonia than any other chemical. In addition to releases caused by transportation accidents, human error and equipment failure, a number have been caused by anhydrous ammonia thefts. It is a key ingredient in the illegal making of methamphetamine. When stolen, the toxic anhydrous ammonia gas can be unintentionally released, causing injuries to people who are emergency responders, law enforcement personnel, the public and the criminals themselves.
EPA is striving to learn the causes of chemical accidents and prevent their occurrence. This Web-based tool will assist the owners and managers of agricultural facilities with RMP requirements and it can help to protect human health and the environment by preventing chemical accidents.