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Explosives plant near Cheyenne pays $400K penalty for hazardous chemical mishandling

The alleged Clean Air Act violations stem from reported spills and failure to maintain and share emergency response plans.

Dyno Nobel's explosive manufacturing plant is located several miles southwest of Cheyenne. (The Center for Land Use Interpretation)

by Dustin Bleizeffer, WyoFile

Dyno Nobel Inc. will pay a $395,000 civil penalty for “several” Clean Air Act violations related to “the management of ammonia and chlorine” at its ammonium nitrate production plant near Cheyenne, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced this week.

“Deficiencies included failures to adhere to the Clean Air Act’s [Risk Management Program] standards for process safety information, process hazard analysis, mechanical integrity and operating procedures at the plant,” the EPA stated in a press release on Tuesday.

In addition to the penalty, the EPA required Dyno Nobel to complete four years of compliance with the federal Risk Management Program, which is intended to prevent chemical accidents at industrial facilities. Dyno Nobel, which provides explosive materials for industrial use such as blasting at Wyoming coal mines, must comply with the program because it handles more than “10,000 pounds of ammonia or 2,500 pounds of chlorine,” according to the EPA.

Dyno Nobel driver Bernard “BW” Williams attaches hoses to a truck. (screenshot from a Dyno Nobel video)

Federal regulators inspected Dyno Nobel’s Cheyenne facility in 2017 after it reported “spills” of hazardous materials to local emergency management officials in Laramie County. The inspection revealed that “the company failed to submit required written notifications of anhydrous ammonia releases to the Laramie County Emergency Management Agency on two separate occasions,” which also resulted in a $20,352 penalty at the time, according to the EPA.

Following the inspection, “EPA notified our company that it believed certain process safety and mechanical requirements were not being met at that facility,” Dyno Nobel told WyoFile via email. “While we contested parts of EPA’s assessment, we worked extensively to provide factual information to EPA to address their concerns over a four-year period. 

Explosive materials are loaded into a “blast hole” at a coal mine. (Dyno Nobel)

“The issues raised in the 2017 assessment,” the company continued, “did not have any negative impact on the local environment, the surrounding community or the health and safety of our employees. Our top priority continues to be zero harm to the environment and the communities in which we operate.”  

Reached for comment, Cheyenne/Laramie County Emergency Management Director Jeanine West said she was “surprised” about the alleged Clean Air Act violations at the Cheyenne facility.

“Dyno calls my office and the state anytime, regardless of time of day, if they have a release of anything,” West told WyoFile via email. “Dyno is a great partner of ours so I was actually surprised to see this occur.”

The explosives manufacturing facility, which is located about 7 miles southwest of the State Capitol Building, employs about 200 workers and has experienced a downturn in product demand due to the declining coal industry, according to earlier reports by the Cheyenne Tribune Eagle.

“The measures Dyno Nobel has taken in response to EPA’s compliance actions are significantly reducing the risks of chemical releases that can harm residents, workers and first responders,” EPA Region 8 Director Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Division Suzanne Bohan said in a prepared statement.

This article was originally published by WyoFile and is republished here with permission. WyoFile is an independent nonprofit news organization focused on Wyoming people, places and policy.