A chicken processing plant in Robeson County has been fined $27,410 by North Carolina environmental authorities for improper handling of hazardous materials that resulted in an ammonia release that caused fatal personal injuries.


The leak at the Mountaire Farms Inc. near Lumber Bridge resulted in the death of 48-year-old Fayetteville resident Clifton Swain. He was a maintenance worker at the plant.


The N.C. Division of Air Quality levied the fine, which is in addition to a $73,325 fine levied against the plant by the N.C. Department of Labor last year for safety violations that led to Swain’s death.


The Labor Department said that Swain died when anhydrous ammonia leaked from a ruptured high-pressure refrigerant line as workers performed maintenance on a piece of meat-processing equipment.


According to the Air Quality division fine, the company was in violation of federal regulations designed to ensure that hazardous materials are safely handled and stored.


By rule, companies are required to develop a Risk Management Program designed to ensure that hazardous materials are properly stored, employees are properly trained on safe handling methods, and response plans for emergency releases are prepared.


The plant was fined $25,000, the maximum amount the Air Quality division is allowed to assess for a single violation, due to the severity of the incident and previous problems at the plant. Also included in the assessment was an additional $2,410 to cover the division’s investigative costs.


The investigation revealed that Mountaire failed to have a complete and proper Risk Management Program in place, despite having been previously cited for a deficient Risk Management Program. The division fined the company $4,506 in March 2008 for violating risk management rules.

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