The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on 11 September that Meyer’s Bakery, based in Little Rock, had agreed to the largest settlement in the history of the EPA’s stratospheric ozone protection programme.

“Meyer’s allowed thousands of pounds of refrigerant to leak from appliances without performing required repairs. It is important that businesses using these substances manage them responsibly, or face swift action by the EPA,” EPA Regional Administrator Gregg Cooke said.

The leaks occurred at Meyer’s facilities in: Hope, Arkansas; Arizona City, Arizona; Orlando, Florida; Wichita, Kansas; and Cleburne, Texas. The exact amount of refrigerant leaked was not announced but Clean Air Act regulations require certain types of industrial facilities to repair leaks from appliances that exceed a 35% annual leak rate were seriously violated. According to Meyer’s own service logs, bakeries continued to add refrigerant and operate equipment without making repairs even where the leak rates were greater than 58% and as high as 22,531%, the EPA said.

Additionally, Meyer’s did not follow up repairs with leak checks, maintain complete service records or develop a retrofit or replacement plan for these leaky systems.

“This penalty marks the largest civil fine to date under the government’s program to control emissions that destroy the earth’s ozone layer,” said Lois Schiffer, the Assistant Attorney General for the Environment at the Justice Department.

Meyer’s is a large commercial bakery that produces bread, muffins and other bakery goods for distribution throughout the United States and Canada.

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