Gallo to pay civil penalty, make safety improvements to winery

E.&J. Gallo winery at Clovis and Olive avenues in Fresno, Calif. is pictured in May 2017.
E.&J. Gallo winery at Clovis and Olive avenues in Fresno, Calif. is pictured in May 2017.

In a settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, E.&.J. Gallo Winery will pay a $58,000 civil penalty and make improvements to address the risk of chemical accidents at its wine production facility in Fresno.

Gallo agreed to spend $350,000 to enhance safety equipment and procedures at the winery on Olive Avenue in Fresno. Three years ago, federal inspectors found the facility was not complying with Clean Air Act regulations for hazard assessment, safety information, operating procedures, compliance audits, incident investigations and emergency response, according to an EPA press release Thursday.

The federal agency said the action will result in safety improvements to the plant. A refrigeration system at the winery uses large amounts of anhydrous ammonia that can cause damage to skin, eyes and lungs.

“Facilities that store and use hazardous substances must follow federal requirements to protect communities and the environment from potentially catastrophic accidents,” Mike Stoker, a regional EPA administrator, said in the news release.

Gallo will complete an environmental project at the facility, including new valves and emergency shutoff switches “allowing an operator or emergency responder to remotely shut down the ammonia refrigeration systems” in an emergency, the EPA said.

A Gallo spokesperson said: “We worked in partnership with the EPA to implement a series of best management practices which will further enhance our existing safety programs at our Fresno winery.”

Modesto-based E.&J. Gallo Winery is the largest privately owned wine company in the world.

Ken Carlson covers county government and health care for The Modesto Bee. His coverage of public health, medicine, consumer health issues and the business of health care has appeared in The Bee for 15 years.