Under Agreement with DOJ and EPA, StarKist to Enhance Environmental and Safety Measures at Facility in American Samoa, Protecting Local Communities and Coastal Waters
The U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have reached an agreement with StarKist Co. and its subsidiary, Starkist Samoa Co., requiring the companies to make a series of upgrades to reduce pollution, improve safety measures, and comply with important federal environmental laws at their tuna processing facility in American Samoa.
Under the agreement, StarKist will pay a $6.3 million penalty and provide emergency response equipment to the American Samoa Department of Public Safety, Fire Services Bureau, for use in responding to chemical releases.
“The settlement is a significant environmental win for the community of American Samoa,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey H. Wood of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “The Department will continue to identify violations and enforce federal laws designed to protect the environment and the public. As a result of this action, StarKist has already performed a significant amount of work to correct its violations and we will continue to work together with our partners to bring the facility back into compliance and prevent future violations.”
“Today’s agreement will help prevent hazardous releases at the StarKist facility, protect workers and the local community, and reduce pollution discharged into Pago Pago Harbor by more than 13 million pounds each year,” said Acting Regional Administrator Alexis Strauss with the EPA’s Pacific Southwest Region. “Working with our partners at American Samoa EPA, we will monitor the company’s progress toward full compliance with all federal environmental rules.”
In July 2014, the American Samoa Environmental Protection Agency informed EPA of a discharge pipeline break at the facility, which was spilling unpermitted wastewater into the inner Pago Pago Harbor. At that time, EPA began investigating the facility after monitoring reports submitted by StarKist revealed wastewater pollutant levels that consistently exceeded permitted levels. EPA’s investigations revealed that StarKist had changed the composition of the facility’s discharged wastewater such that its existing wastewater treatment system was inadequate.
After full implementation of the wastewater treatment system upgrades, the facility’s annual discharge of pollutants into Pago Pago Harbor, including total nitrogen, phosphorus, oil and grease, and total suspended solids, will be reduced by at least 85 percent – a total reduction of more than 13 million pounds of wastewater pollutants each year.
In addition to wastewater violations, EPA also found StarKist was improperly storing ammonia, butane, and chlorine gas, which the facility used on-site for refrigeration, operation of forklifts, and disinfection. The federal Clean Air Act requires companies to operate safely in order to prevent releases of hazardous chemicals that can harm workers and the surrounding community.
Starkist will also perform a Supplemental Environmental Project (SEP) requiring it to purchase and donate no less than $88,000 worth of specified emergency response equipment to the American Samoa Fire Department, the entity that would respond to a chemical release from the Facility on Tutuila Island. This SEP is an Emergency Planning and Preparedness project, which is a recognized category under EPA’s SEP Policy.
The agreement requires StarKist to improve the facility’s ammonia refrigeration system and discontinue using chlorine gas and butane, which will greatly reduce the risk of hazardous substance releases. In addition, the companies have submitted emergency planning information to local responders and will implement a new system for notifying the public in real time in the event of a release.
To prevent oil spills, the companies are upgrading four large above-ground oil storage tanks containing diesel oil, used petroleum oil, and food-grade oil—a byproduct of fish processing. The four tanks, located only feet from inner Pago Pago Harbor, were found to have inadequate secondary containment structures as required by the Clean Water Act. In its own audit, StarKist identified additional problems, including violations of hazardous waste management and notification regulations, and disclosed them to EPA.
Starkist Samoa Co. owns and operates the tuna processing facility, located at Route 1 on the northwestern side of Pago Pago Harbor in the village of Atu'u on the Island of Tutuila in American Samoa. Starkist Samoa Co. is a wholly owned subsidiary of StarKist Co. which in turn is owned by the Korean company Dongwon Industries. StarKist Co. is the world’s largest supplier of canned tuna. The American Samoa facility processes and cans tuna for human consumption and processes fish byproducts into fishmeal and fish oil.
For more information, please visit https://www.epa.gov/enforcement/starkist-clean-water-act-clean-air-act-resource-conservation-and-recovery-and-emergency.
The proposed consent decree, lodged in the U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is subject to a 30-day comment period and final court approval. A copy of the proposed consent decree is available on the Justice Department Web site at www.usdoj.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html.