13 Sep 2017

American Samoa cannery reaches deal with US agencies

3:37 pm on 13 September 2017

American Samoa cannery StarKist Samoa is to make upgrades to reduce pollution and improve safety.

Cannery, American Samoa

Cannery, American Samoa Photo: Supplied

The company and its parent, Starkist Co, have reached a deal with the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Under the agreement, StarKist will pay a $US6.3 million dollar penalty and provide emergency response equipment to the American Samoa Fire Department for use in responding to chemical releases.

The acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Wood of the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division called the settlement a significant environmental win for American Samoa.

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Photo: RNZI

He said as a result of this action StarKist has already performed a significant amount of work to correct its violations.

Alexis Strauss of the EPA's Pacific Southwest Region, said the agreement will help prevent hazardous releases at the StarKist facility, protect workers and the local community, and reduce pollution discharged into Pago Pago harbour.

In July 2014, the American Samoa Environmental Protection Agency informed the EPA of a discharge pipeline break at the facility, which was spilling unpermitted wastewater into the inner Pago Pago harbour.

Ofu and Olosega in the Manu'as in American Samoa.

Ofu and Olosega in the Manu'as in American Samoa. Photo: American Samoa Tourism

At that time, the EPA began investigating the facility after monitoring reports submitted by StarKist revealed wastewater pollutant levels that consistently exceeded permitted levels.

The 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.

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.

American Samoa tuna processing plant

American Samoa tuna processing plant Photo: RNZI Monica Miller

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 requiring it to purchase and donate no less than $US88,000 worth of specified emergency response equipment to the American Samoa Department of Public Safety, Fire Services Bureau.

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.

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