Airgas Doral pleaded guilty to violating the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida.
The company allowed the transportation of a container of argon gas that should not have been shipped, and the container in question leaked and resulted in the deaths of three stevedores, according to the U.S. Attorney\’s Office.
Airgas agreed to the recommendation of a potential fine of $7 million and a two-year probation, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Sentencing is scheduled for late May.
Attorneys for Airgas had no comment. Airgas Doral is a Delaware-based corporation that is a subsidiary of Airgas Inc., which operates a Miami-area fill plant.
“The safe transport of hazardous materials is of paramount importance,” U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer said in a statement.
Distributors and suppliers of hazardous materials are subject to strict regulation regarding the handling of specific substances.
\”The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Department of Transportation are committed to the prosecution of individuals and corporations that willfully and recklessly violate the hazardous materials laws,\” Ferrer added.
Airgas operated a Doral-based gas fill plant and is a leading distributor of industrial, medical, specialty gases and hard goods, according to a court document. In addition, the company produces atmospheric gases, dry ice, nitrous oxide and more.
Between 2007 and 2008, the Miami fill plant was the only facility in the Airgas family that exported argon, a cryogenic liquid categorized in a hazard class, to Central and South America, according to a court document. Airgas supplied argon in bulk containers that were filled at the plant by an independent contractor, then transported by a commercial carrier to customers abroad.
Airgas was charged by information in April with willfully and recklessly failing to conduct a complete external inspection of the bulk portable tanks on separate instances in 2008, according to a court document.
Airgas’ violations were discovered when a container released argon gas in the hold of a vessel at Port Everglades, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Although other companies handled the container after it left Airgas’ facility, a subsidiary of Airgas was the shipper, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.