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A Bozeman ammunition company that was fined last year for exposing its workers to lead was under investigation Thursday for possible violations of environmental laws.

Federal agents were seen going in and out of USA Brass Co. at 25 Evergreen Drive.

Jeff Martinez, special agent in charge of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Criminal Investigation Division in Denver, confirmed that agents were searching the business after reports of violations of environmental laws.

However, Martinez would not comment on specifics of the investigation.

In September, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined the company for exposing employees to lead.

OSHA said it found 10 serious violations at USA Brass.

The Gallatin City-County Health Department said in October that 22 people who work or had worked at USA Brass had elevated levels of lead.

“The toxic effects of occupational exposure to lead have been well-known for a long time, but this employer did not have basic safeguards to protect workers against this hazard,” said Jeff Funke, OSHA’s area director in Billings, in a September news release.

OSHA inspected the business last March, and the company complied with the federal agency’s requirements for several months, USA Brass CEO Zach Flanagan said in September. No workers were sickened by lead exposure, he said.

Other serious violations OSHA found include:

  • a failure to prohibit food and beverages from areas with excessive accumulations of lead
  • a failure to have programs on respiratory protection
  • a failure to have adequate housekeeping procedures
  • a failure to perform required medical examinations
  • a failure to post required signs in hazardous areas

Martinez said Thursday he expected the search of USA Brass to finish by the end of the day. Members of the Bozeman Police Department were seen at the business working with federal agents. Martinez said other agencies were assisting the EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division, but he declined to say what other agencies were involved.

Whitney Bermes can be reached at wbermes@dailychronicle.com or 582-2648. Follow her on Twitter at @wabermes.

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