Refrigerant leaks have cost a US warehouse operator a US $335,000 fine and close to $2 million over the next three years in repairs.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Justice announced the settlement with Costco after the company admitted violating the federal Clean Air Act.

According to the EPA, the company didn’t repair leaking refrigeration equipment of the refrigerant R-22 from 2004 to 2007. The gas released by this refrigerant is close to 1,800 times more damaging to the ozone layer than carbon dioxide.

Costco operates more than 450 warehouse stores across the US and Puerto Rico, and 660 worldwide. Documents state that the company didn’t keep sufficient service records of equipment related to potential leaks and also put the safety of workers and the general public at risk.

Penalties

As well as the massive fine, Costco must replace or repair refrigeration equipment in 30 warehouses. It must also illustrate to federal agencies that by 2017, they have reduced refrigerant leaks by at least 19 per cent. This will be achieved through a management plan that can guide the business to accurately prevent future problems.

Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance explained this settlement should prevent a further 52.5 tons of refrigerants entering the atmosphere.

“Cutting harmful greenhouse gas emissions is a national priority for the EPA, and this settlement will lead to significant reductions of an ozone-depleting gas that is 1,700 times more potent than carbon dioxide,” she said.

“Fixing leaks of refrigerants, improving compliance and reducing emissions will make a real difference in protecting us from the dangers of ozone depletion, while reducing the impact on climate change.”

With Australian’s affected heavily by the ozone layer breakdown, all businesses should be making containing gases a priority and undertake regular service and maintenance on all equipment.

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