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Meat-processing company, Demakes Enterprises, back in EPA compliance

LYNN — Demakes Enterprises, a meat-processing facility which uses ammonia in its refrigeration, has come into compliance with federal environmental laws after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found the company was operating in violation of clean air and federal right-to-know laws, and putting employees and the public in danger, according to an agency statement.

Meanwhile, the Waterhill Street company is recalling 32,228 pounds of fully cooked chicken sausage product due to misbranding and undeclared allergens, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.

The meat-processing, cooking, packaging and storage facility sells products under the “Thin ‘n Trim” and “Old Neighborhood” labels.

The recalled product, “Thin ‘n Trim Fully Cooked Sausage Buffalo Style,” contains milk, a known allergen, which is not declared on the product label. The sausages were produced and packaged between Jan. 20 and Aug. 10, 2017, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The items were shipped to retail locations in Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania, the USDA said.

According to the USDA, there have been no reports of adverse reactions to the product, but anyone who has purchased the sausage is urged not to consume it.

Thomas L. Demakes, CEO of Demakes Enterprises, declined comment.

EPA officials said the company violated a part of the Clean Air Act in its mishandling of anhydrous ammonia, and also violated the right-to-know law by failing to report the amount of ammonia used in the facility, along with failing to report sulfuric acid present in the facility.

To resolve the violations identified by the EPA, Demakes Enterprises spent about $300,000 on safety upgrades and other measures to come into compliance with the Clean Air Act and the federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act. The company also signed an agreement with the EPA stating that it would pay a $132,183 penalty to resolve the violations, EPA officials said.

The violations were identified during a 2014 EPA inspection, along with information received by the agency after that. Inspectors found numerous potentially dangerous conditions related to the ammonia refrigeration system, including insufficient emergency plans, insufficient labeling of ammonia control valves and piping, lack of alarms and other safety equipment, and failures to test/maintain/replace safety equipment, according to the EPA.

Ammonia presents a health hazard because it is corrosive to the skin, eyes and lungs, and is flammable at high concentrations — as a result of the dangers, the ammonia refrigeration industry has developed standards and guidelines for the design and operation of ammonia refrigeration systems, according to the EPA.

The EPA said Demakes failed to report sulfuric acid from lead batteries in 2013 when there were more than 500 pounds of sulfuric acid stored in the facility. The company also underreported its inventory of anhydrous ammonia — Demakes reported 3,000 pounds in 2013, but the EPA stated there were at least 6,275 pounds of ammonia.

Demakes has since provided information on how it addressed the conditions and is now in compliance with both laws, EPA officials said.

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