Merrimack chemical firm fined by EPA

A firm that processes, stores and ships chemicals for water treatment and industrial processes has been fined almost $41,000 by the EPA because of issues at its facility near the confluence of the Merrimack and Souhegan rivers, including waiting 10 hours to report a June 2010 release “from a ruptured storage tank unprotected by secondary containment.”

JCI Jones Chemicals, which has operated along the rail line in Merrimack since 1962, was one of five firms in New England “that store or use extremely hazardous chemicals” which have made “settlements with EPA for violating federal regulations meant to prevent chemical accidents from occurring,” according to a Tuesday release from the federal agency.

All the companies, including JCI Jones, have cooperated with the agency and are “taking action to improve the safety of their operations,” the EPA said.

JCI Jones Branch Manager Kevin Ballantine referred comment to the corporate headquarters in Sarasota, Fla., which did not return a call from The Telegraph. The firm, which has facilities around the country, has estimated annual sales of $68 million, according to the EPA.

EPA alleged that JCI Jones failed to “adequately evaluate risks associated with storing and handling chlorine and sulfur dioxide in proximity to incompatible chemicals, such as sodium hypochlorite, and on-site traffic.” The complaint alleged a variety of cylinders and tanks that were unsecured, “poorly secured,” or closer to rail lines than regulations specify.

In addition, EPA said JCI violated Superfund reporting requirements “when it failed to immediately notify the National Response Center of an accidental release of sodium hypochlorite from a ruptured storage tank unprotected by secondary containment.” Sodium hypochlorite is a type of bleach.

The complain said that around midnight on the morning of June 20, 2010, JCI Jones workers discovered a “large, fan-shaped spray” of material coming from a crack in a 12,000-gallon above-ground storage tank. About 4,000 gallons of 12.5 percent sodium hypochlorite solution leaked and was transferred to another tank, according to the complaint.

The National Response Center was not notified of the spill until about 10 a.m., whereas it should have been notified immediately, according to the EPA complaint.

Inspection later that day found “that the spilled solution had flowed off the raised concrete pad … and into a storm drain and culvert connected to a retention pond” because of lack of a retention facility.

The JCI Jones facility sits on 6½ acres at the end of Railroad Avenue, a short spur road running east from Route 3, Daniel Webster Highway, just south of the Souhegan River. Railroad Avenue connects to the Pan Am railroad line that runs along the Merrimack River, making it convenient for firms that ship product by rail.

According to information filed with the town, it produces and repackages productions including chlorine, caustic soda, sodium bisulfite, anhydrous ammonia and “a full line of chemicals for industrial, water, and wastewater.”

JCI Jones isn’t far from a part of town long associated with industry, largely because of the rail line. For example, it is a few hundred yards from Watson Park, the former site of Harcros Chemicals and a tannery that left much tainted soil behind.

David Brooks can be reached at 594-6531 or dbrooks@nashua Also, follow Brooks on Twitter (@GraniteGeek).