By ecoRI News staff
The cities of Groton and Norwich, Conn., will make significant upgrades to their drinking water treatment plants by eliminating the use of chlorine gas, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). These actions settle claims by the EPA that the cities violated federal clean air laws meant to prevent chemical accidents.
Groton and Norwich will pay penalties of $7,000 and $8,330, respectively, and both cities will put in place projects to reduce public-health risks in their communities by eliminating the use of chlorine gas. The water treatment plants will use sodium hypochlorite, a safer chemical, for water disinfection, the EPA said. The cost to make these facility upgrades will be at least $449,000 in Groton and at least $150,000 in Norwich, according to the federal agency.
Removing chlorine gas from these facilities will eliminate the chance of an accidental release and improve public safety, without compromising water treatment. Sodium hypochlorite is easier to handle and less hazardous than chlorine gas, according to the EPA.
These cases stem from 2012 inspections of the water treatment facilities.
At the Groton Water Treatment Facility, the EPA documented violations of the risk-management regulations related to the storage and handling of chlorine gas, including the failure to develop an adequate off-site hazard consequence analysis, failure to adequately implement a program to maintain the ongoing integrity of process equipment and failure to implement an adequate emergency response plan.
At Norwich’s Dr. Charles W. Solomon Water Purification Plant, the EPA identified a number of violations of the risk-management requirements, including the failure to develop a management system, and failure to develop and implement a preventative maintenance program.
The Clean Air Act’s risk-management plan requirements are designed to prevent and minimize the consequences of an accidental release of hazardous substances, such as chlorine gas.
Exposure to chlorine gas presents significant health risks because, if it is released, it can be severely corrosive to the eyes, skin and lungs, according to the EPA. In some cases, exposure to high concentrations can be fatal. Inhalation of chlorine at lower concentrations can cause lung inflammation, fluid in the lungs, chest pain and vomiting.