Fairfield company fined by EPA for 2012 chemical leak

Fairfield firefighters and regional hazardous materials technicians responded to a leak at 5N Inc. on Commerce Drive on April 12, 2012. The EPA has fined the company and ordered to to purchase equipment for local firefighters.

Fairfield firefighters and regional hazardous materials technicians responded to a leak at 5N Inc. on Commerce Drive on April 12, 2012. The EPA has fined the company and ordered to to purchase equipment for local firefighters.

A Fairfield company that develops and produces specialty metal and chemical products will pay a $13,250 penalty, and will purchase at least $47,900 worth of equipment for the Fairfield Fire Department to settle EPA claims that it violated environmental right-to-know requirements.

According to a recent settlement with the EPA, 5N Plus, Inc. allegedly violated the federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) by failing to report hazardous chemical inventories to the local fire department and to other emergency responders. The company also failed to report the use and potential release of the toxic chemicals, lead and selenium, under the Toxic Release Inventory, a national database of toxic chemical use available to the public.

On April 12, 2012, emergency calls reported an “out-gassing of gallium trichloride,” a “vapor cloud,” and building evacuation on Commerce Drive. No medical emergencies were reported.

Initial reports indicated a visible plume emanating from the building, according to a fire department press release that day.

Occupants of 5N Plus were checked for injuries and questioned regarding medical complaints by first arriving personnel as emergency units restricted further civilian access to the area.

Initial air monitoring showed no signs of chlorine or other contamination, but nearby residents were advsied to close their doors and windows and shelter as a precaution.

Firefighters and haz-mat technicians, led by building representates, found that there was a vapor cloud visibile in the rear portion of the building, but the air handling system designed to scrub dangerous emissions had done its job.

“Efforts were made to shut down the process and stop the continued release of product from its container, with participation and support from the Fairfield County Hazardous Incident Response Team, the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Long Island Sound, the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and American Medical Response,” the Fairfield Fire Department reported that day.

On April 13, 5N issued a statement acknowledging the leak at the Commerce Drive site and detailing the response.

“There were no injuries, no medical complaints, and no apparent signs of environmental impact from this event and the incident did not result in any damage to the facility,” according to 5N.

However, the EPA ruled that the company did not properly report what chemicals were being used at the plant.

“The company’s failure to report and file appropriate forms deprives the community of its right to know about chemicals present in the neighborhood,” according to a release from the EPA. “This failure also prevents emergency responders from being aware of hazardous chemicals at the facility in the case of an emergency.”

As part of the settlement, 5N will purchase emergency response equipment for use by the Fairfield Fire Department and the Fairfield County Hazardous Incident emergency response teams. This equipment includes a utility vehicle, a skid unit, a trailer for the utility vehicle, hazardous material detection devices and calibration aids.

The utility vehicle will be used to help emergency responders address large impacted areas and will also help in distribution of emergency response equipment and protective clothing. The vehicle will also help emergency responders get to areas not accessible by standard vehicles.

Also as part of the agreement, 5N Plus certified that it is in compliance with the federal law.

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