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Gristedes Faces $14 Million in Penalties for Toxic Refrigerant Leaks; Two UES Stores are Worst

gristedes lawsuit refrigerant leaks

The Gristedes at 1343 Lexington Avenue, c/o Google Maps

New York supermarket giant Gristedes will be required to spend nearly $14 million to upgrade its refrigeration after breaking an Environmental Protection Agency law that resulted in the leak of massive amounts of greenhouse gases. The news was announced Monday in a press release from the Southern District of New York.

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The complaint filed by the Justice Department alleges that Gristedes allowed more than 40,000 pounds of “climate impacting refrigerants” to leak from its commercial refrigerators between 2019 and 2021.

“Many of these refrigerants are harmful to human health and the environment: they are toxic when inhaled, they deplete the ozone layer, and they contribute to the greenhouse gas effect, one of the drivers of climate change,” the complaint filed by the office of U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Damian Williams, reads. “These refrigerant leaks have a greenhouse gas effect equivalent to driving an average, gasoline-powered vehicle an extra 140,000,000 miles.”

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Gristedes owns and operates about twenty stores in New York City including six on the Upper East Side. The lawsuit cites an example infraction from an appliance at the Gristedes location at 1446 Second Avenue (at East 75th Street), which had a leak rate of 323% in 2019. Leak rates that exceed 20% are required by law to be repaired, retrofitted or retired altogether.

The Second Avenue location, along with the Gristedes at 1343 Lexington Avenue (at East 89th Street), each have twenty appliances that will require repair or replacement – more than any other single Gristedes location.

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“As a result of our lawsuit, Gristedes is now require to reduce its emissions by over 70% from their 2020 levels to offset at least some of the damage it has caused, and it will face significant additional penalties under the Consent Decree if it fails to do so,” Williams said in a statement.

Gristedes will pay a $400,000 civil penalty and is required to spend more than $13.5 million to upgrade or replace its refrigeration systems. A consent decree that accompanies the ruling says Gristedes must reduce its leak rate across all stores from 59% in 2020 to 16% within four years.


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