FAA urges fines against Stony Brook chemical company for 2 shipments of hazardous material

Still image showing detail of Alfa Chemistry website.

Still image showing detail of Alfa Chemistry website.

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A Stony Brook chemical company twice shipped "undeclared hazardous material" that's prohibited on cargo flights, once causing inspectors to experience "coughing fits and extreme eye, nose and throat irritation," the Federal Aviation Administration said Tuesday.

The FAA is proposing a $325,000 civil penalty against Alfa Chemistry, which is alleged to have shipped on FedEx cargo flights about a pint of the chemical acrolein last April 19, and three pints last May 23. Both shipments were addressed to an individual at Alfa Aesar in Ward Hill, Mass., described on its website as a manufacturer and supplier of research chemicals.

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That's according to the FAA's news release and a letter from the FAA dated Feb. 4, 2014, addressed to the president of Protheragen Inc., which does business as Alfa Chemistry at 1360 Stony Brook Rd. The company did not respond to requests for comment.

Acrolein "can become explosive when combined with air and is classified as a toxic/poisonous material and flammable liquid" under U.S. Department of Transportation hazardous materials regulations, the FAA said.

In addition to the material being "forbidden" on passenger and cargo aircraft, the shipments did not have the required "shipping papers or emergency response information," the FAA said. Alfa did not "properly train and test" workers who packaged the material, the FAA said.

When the second shipment -- not "marked, labeled or packaged" as required -- started "emitting a strong, pungent odor" at FedEx's Peabody, Mass., sorting facility, FAA and FedEx workers tried to inspect it, the FAA said. Because of their reactions to "the severity of the odor and vapors," they were deterred until a worker donned a protective suit, the FAA said.

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Alfa, which had 30 days from receipt of the Feb. 4 letter to respond, did, indeed, respond to the FAA, said an FAA spokesman, who "at this point" said he could not share the details.

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