The U.S. Department of Transportation has fined one of the nation’s oldest tank makers nearly $4 million for manufacturing and selling what it calls “unsafe” cargo tanks used to carry caustic anhydrous ammonia.
DOT’s action came more than a year after the state of Iowa reported leaks of the hazardous material in tanks made by American Welding & Tank LLC of Fremont, OH.
|American Welding & Tank manufactures, refurbishes and repairs tanks. In September 2010, the state of Iowa said it had turned up faulty ammonia nurse tanks made by the company.|
AWT pledged Friday to “vigorously oppose” the DOT fine and insisted that its tanks had never been linked to any injury or property damage.
State, Federal Inspections
On Sept. 23, 2010, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship announced that its regular annual inspection had turned up “several faulty tanks” recently manufactured by AWT.
The agency issued “stop use” orders on 15 tanks and urged farmers to inspect “any anhydrous ammonia nurse tanks they have on their farm for pinhole leaks or faulty welds that could undermine the integrity of the tank.”
Iowa also passed along its findings to DOT, which regulates nurse tanks. DOT’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration then conducted its own “thorough safety investigation” of AWT’s manufacturing plant, FMCSA said Friday (Oct. 7).
‘A Clear Pattern’
“After investigating the company’s welding practices and safety records, FMCSA discovered a clear pattern of AWT failing to manufacture, maintain, repair and sell nurse tanks that meet federal hazardous materials safety standards,” the agency said.
|“When cargo tank manufacturers are not living up to federal safety standards, we will take action,” said FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro.|
FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro said: “When cargo tank manufacturers are not living up to federal safety standards, we will take action. Our agency is committed to using every resource available to keep our roads safe and save lives.”
An FMCSA spokeswoman said Friday that she was unaware of any injuries or accidents reported in connection with the tanks.
Safety ‘A Primary Concern’
Last year, when the Iowa findings came to light, the company issued this statement:
“At American Welding & Tank, customer safety is a primary concern. The company has always worked, and will continue to work, with customers to minimize any safety risk using and maintaining anhydrous ammonia storage tanks and to quickly and effectively respond to any issues.”
On Friday, AWT issued this statement:
“American Welding & Tank has always followed and met all federal guidelines for the manufacture of anhydrous ammonia nurse tanks and will vigorously oppose any attempt by the Department of Transportation to impose a fine. The Company is not aware of any incidence of injury or property damage from a pinhole defect in anhydrous ammonia tanks it manufactures, nor in tanks manufactured in the 50-year history of the industry.”
Caustic and hazardous, ammonia is a common compound of nitrogen and hydrogen, widely used in everything from cleaning to pharmaceuticals to fertilizers. Used commercially, it is known as anhydrous ammonia (NH3), reflecting the lack of water in the material.
‘North American Leader’
AWT calls itself “the established North American leader of propane tank manufacturing and design.”
AWT tanks are used in industrial, power generation, commercial, residential and agricultural applications. The company also provides tank-repair services for ASME propane tanks and DOT propane cylinders and provides refurbishing, including shotblasting and repainting, of tanks.
The fine against AWT sends “a strong message that companies will face serious consequences when they do not make safety a top priority,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “Safety is our highest priority, and we are committed to protecting motorists from accidents involving the transport of hazardous materials.”
For more information on federal safety regulations for cargo tank manufacturers, as well as truck and bus companies transporting hazardous materials, visit the agency’s website at www.fmcsa.dot.gov.