Penalty for Company on Yakama Reservation; Agrees to Equipment Upgrades

Richard Walker

A company on the Yakama Nation Reservation that manufactures products to keep harvested fruits and vegetables fresh from farm to table will upgrade its equipment and pay a $77,134 penalty for violations of the Clean Air Act.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced on October 6 its settlement with Pace International LLC, of Wapato.

Roberto Carpentier, Pace International’s executive VP and chief operating officer, said his company was not penalized for emissions but for failing to properly report emissions with EPA for five years.

According to the permit, emissions of volatile organic compounds cannot exceed 80 tons per year; emissions of hazardous air pollutants cannot exceed eight tons per year; and fuel used in boilers must not exceed .05 percent by weight.

“We’ve been staying under that permit,” Carpentier said. The violations “relate to not filing reporting emissions, and the timing and conducting of testing of boilers.”

He said his company has a “good, transparent, open relationship with the Yakama Nation.” He also said the EPA “has been very open and fair with us.”

The Yakama Nation’s environmental management program office did not respond to an inquiry from ICTMN.

Pace International is headquartered in Wapato and has other offices in Wenatchee, Washington; and Visalia, California. It is a subsidiary of Valent Biosciences, an international company owned by Sumitomo Chemical.

Pace International employs 88 in Wapato, a city on the Yakama reservation. No employees are Yakama Nation citizens, Carpentier said, but most live on the reservation.

Unannounced inspection

The processing of agricultural foods is a key industry in the region, and Pace International is one of seven food processing businesses (Del Monte is another) on the Yakama Reservation. In addition to manufacturing fruit and vegetable coatings, fungicides and sanitizers, Pace International provides equipment, laboratory, and technical services to the agricultural industry.

Among the coatings Pace International manufactures: plant-based waxes, like carnauba; animal-based waxes, like shellac; and mineral and synthetic waxes. The products are used by those who prepare foods for shipment to market.

“During the process of formulating these coatings, volatile organic compounds are released to the atmosphere,” the EPA reported. “VOCs are harmful if inhaled and can contribute to causing ground-level ozone, another harmful air pollutant.”

According to the EPA website, “Volatile organic compounds are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids. VOCs include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short- and long-term adverse health effects. Concentrations of many VOCs are consistently higher indoors (up to ten times higher) than outdoors. VOCs are emitted by a wide array of products numbering in the thousands.”

Violations at Pace’s Wapato facility were identified during a routine, unannounced inspection, according to EPA. Violations included:

—Failing to track, calculate, and record the monthly and 12-month rolling emission inventory for VOCs.

—Missing the compliance deadline for conducting the required National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants energy assessments on two boilers.

—Late submission of Notification of Compliance Status Reports for completing the energy assessments on the two boilers.

“A second inspection was conducted during which Pace agreed to EPA using an infrared video camera to see otherwise invisible air emissions,” EPA reported. “[Thermal-imaging] camera video footage helped Pace decide to replace the old leaky pumps with new leak-proof stainless steel pumps and crush-resistant hoses, reducing local air pollution.”

Pace will invest $78,427 to replace older pneumatic pumps and hoses (used to transfer large volumes of VOC-containing liquids around the facility) with more efficient equipment which, according to EPA, “is expected to reduce leaks and vapor emissions.”

Tania Reynolds, Pace’s environmental, health and safety manager who once worked as an engineering technician for IHS, said the new hoses and pumps are a good investment. She said Pace uses a photo-ionization device to monitor VOC levels.

“Everything is pumped [and enclosed], so there’s not a lot we lose,” Reynolds said. “But the more airtight we make it, the better.”

The settlement with EPA is Pace International’s seventh since 1996 and fifth since 2010.

The company paid $8,925 in 1996 for failing to properly report a toxic chemical release. Between 2010 and 2012, the company paid a total of $10,800 for misbranded or mislabeled products.

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