Pepsi Co. to pay civil penalty, bolster inspections for alleged hazards at Cranston facility

Pepsi Co. has agreed to pay a civil fine and retain an independent inspector following alleged safety violations at its 1400 Pontiac Ave. facility in Cranston. / COURTESY GOOGLE MAPS

CRANSTON – Pepsi Co. has agreed to pay a civil penalty and acquire independent safety inspection services following allegations that it violated Clean Air Act standards and risked employee health and safety at its Cranston facility.

Bottling Group LLC, operating at Pepsi Beverages Company and CB Manufacturing Inc, entered into a Consent Order and Final Agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in late September, according to legal documents.

Arkansas-based law firm Mitchell Williams announced the agreement last week.

The EPA alleged that the company had partaken in Clean Air Act violations that risked employee safety and environmental hazards from at least May 2018 through February 2021.

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Under the agreement, Pepsi is not required to admit or deny that the violations took place, but must pay a civil penalty of $96,852,and must retain a third-party expert to oversee minimum safety system evaluations.

According to the EPA, the company did not take appropriate safety measures in its use of a refrigerant known as anhydrous ammonia, which is federally classified as an “extremely hazardous substance” due to its corrosive qualities and potential to cause skin, eye and lung damage. The flammable, explosive substance can cause death in high concentrations.

In January 2020, EPA inspectors flagged “several potentially dangerous conditions,” according to legal documents: Notably, the facility lacked appropriately placed ammonia alarms, emergency override switches, and eyewash and safety shower units. Inspectors also found issues with the discharge mechanisms in pressure release valves.

Pepsi Co. and its legal counsel did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday. The agreement states that the company resolved the EPA’s issues by May 2021.

The 1400 Pontiac Ave. facility includes manufacturing, bottling and warehouse capabilities, and consists of two buildings totaling 220,000 square feet. Around 260 full-time employees work at the location.

The facility is also located within one mile of residential and commercial areas, a hospital, a prison and state office buildings, the agreement notes.

Jacquelyn Voghel is a PBN staff writer. You may reach her at Voghel@PBN.com.

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