A Lodi bakery has agreed to pay $1.3 million in fines and new equipment after an investigation discovered that the business was releasing harmful chemical vapors into the air.
According to a press release from the Environmental Protection Agency, Ralcorp's Cottage Bakery, located on South Stockton Street, has been ordered to pay a penalty of $625,000 after a nearly three-year investigation revealed the business failed to apply for air pollution permits to install and operate the facility's ovens and other air pollution controls that minimize the release of volatile organic compounds, including ethanol.
Ethanol is generated during the leavening stage of bread manufacturing and is later released during baking. Cottage Bakery's production facility includes three bread ovens installed at various times between 1997 and 2006, the press release stated.
The EPA considers volatile organic compounds to be a precursor to ozone pollution.
Ralcorp also agreed to pay $750,000 to install and operate machinery that is meant to reduce VOCs by 95 percent. That machinery is now in use.
A spokesman from Ralcorp was not immediately available for comment.
The agency's investigation of the bread and cake baking facility included an inspection on July 27, 2009 that revealed that the facility had never applied for air pollution permits to install and operate its ovens, nor had it installed air pollution controls, the press release stated.
Cottage Bakery employs about 625 people. The facility produces frozen bread and cake products that are used by retail bakeries and the food service industry throughout the U.S. and Canada.
According to the agency's press release, the San Joaquin Valley has some of the poorest air quality in the nation.
Now that the air pollution controls have been installed, however, the business is taking a step towards helping improve air quality both in Lodi and throughout the county.
"Every bit of pollution can contribute to the overall air quality," said EPA spokesperson Michael Ardito. "We all have to be very aware and try to deter any air pollution that we can."
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