WASHINGTON—K.S., Inc. (K.S.) pleaded guilty and was sentenced for violating the Clean Air Act, the Department of Justice announced today. U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry M. Kurren sentenced K.S., Inc., to pay a $40,000 criminal fine, and pay $12,000 in community service to the LBJ Tropical Medical Center. The defendant was also sentenced to post a letter of apology in the local newspaper.
The one-count information filed against K.S., located in Pago Pago, American Samoa, alleged that in the latter part of January 2003, K.S. was advised by the American Samoa Environmental Protection Agency (ASEPA) that it was maintaining an unauthorized storage of anhydrous ammonia cylinders at a site in Tafuna, American Samoa. The company was directed to properly dispose of the cylinders or make arrangement for the immediate off-island shipment of the ammonia cylinders by qualified personnel. ASEPA also directed K.S. to develop a Product Management and Leak Response Plan and submit the plan to the relevant emergency response agencies for review and approval, notify the relevant emergency response agencies prior to starting any approved removal and/or disposal of the ammonia cylinders, and complete all removal and or disposal of the ammonia cylinders under the direct supervision and oversight of the relevant emergency response agencies.
An employee of K.S. was directed to prepare the ammonia cylinders for removal and disposal by venting ammonia from the cylinders into a 55-gallon drum of water, on or around May 12, 2003. Prior to the venting K.S. did not comply with the requirements of ASEPA and, among other things, did not complete all removal and/or disposal of the ammonia cylinders under the direct supervision and oversight of the relevant emergency response agencies.
On various days subsequent to May 12, 2003, the employee vented ammonia from the cylinders, until he was stopped on May 22, by local police responding to complaint about a strong odor. ASEPA determined that there had been a release of ammonia and evacuated the area surround where the venting took place. Approximately 40 people were evacuated from the area. Some of the people evacuated were taken to the local Medical Center.
An experienced local ammonia vendor was hired to complete the removal of the cylinders.
This case was investigated by the San Francisco office of EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division. The case was prosecuted by Senior Trial Attorney Jennifer Whitfield of the Environmental Crimes Section of the U.S. Department of Justice.