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Olympic Park fined $7,000 by EPA over handling of bobsled track coolant

Published August 14, 2012 2:05 pm

Environment • Nonprofit is updating protocol for handling toxic chemicals.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Park City • The Utah Olympic Park agreed to pay a $7,000 fine this month after an Environmental Protection Agency inspection found violations with the nonprofit's documentation for handling anhydrous ammonia, a regulated, toxic chemical used to refrigerate the bobsled track over the winter months.

The EPA inspected the Utah Olympic Park facilities last year and cited the organization for its hazard analysis process, a review of how staff would react to any issues involving the chemicals which is required every five years, and its internal compliance audit, a risk management review required every three years. Both reviews of policy are required under the Clean Air Act and enforced by the EPA.

"If released, these chemicals could cause problems for public health and the environment," said EPA Enforcement Coordinator David Cobb.

"Organizations using these chemicals are supposed to look at the hazards of the process," he added. "How you would react if a tank ruptures? What safeguards are in place? What is the training protocol?"

The Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation, the nonprofit that oversees the Utah Olympic Park, created a protocol before the 2002 Winter Olympics. Working with the local health department, the fire district and the EPA, board members of the foundation approved an in-depth plan for the park, said current president and CEO Colin Hilton.

"The reason for the inspections was because our refrigeration system utilizes anhydrous ammonia," Hilton said. "My predecessors created a risk management plan, a very rigorous and detailed plan created leading up to Olympics. And that has been basis for how we operate, the plan for response if there ever was a leak in the refrigeration system."

"We haven't had a review or inspection from the EPA in over eight years," he added, "and they did find areas for recommendations, which was mainly in our documentation."

The EPA used an expedited process with a handful of recommendations to the Utah Olympic Park so that the nonprofit would meet the compliance requirements, fining the organization a fraction of what the maximum amount could have been without cooperation and quick action. Under the Clean Air Act, the Utah Olympic Park could have been fined a maximum of $37,500 per day of non-compliance, which would have been several years.

"What saved them in this case was when we reviewed their protocol, the facility was performing regular maintenance and the people using the chemicals were all trained," Cobb said. "There was a good knowledge base."

The nonprofit is currently updating its protocols and risk management plan with plans to finish any updates before the Utah Olympic Park begins using the bobsled track this winter.