State fines Darigold for Issaquah Creek ammonia spill

October 19, 2010

By Warren Kagarise

NEW — 11:50 a.m. Oct. 19, 2010

The state Department of Ecology has fined Darigold Inc. $10,000 for a 2009 ammonia spill into Issaquah Creek, the agency announced Tuesday morning.

The spill caused a fish kill during a salmon-spawning run. The fine is the maximum state penalty authorized per day under state law. Darigold can appeal the penalty to the state Pollution Control Hearings Board.

“Darigold cooperated in the response and investigation, and we appreciate that,” Kevin Fitzpatrick, Department of Ecology regional water quality program supervisor, said in a statement. “However, the company has an obligation under its water quality permit to exercise care at every step of its maintenance operations to prevent the release of toxic substances.”

The release occurred Oct. 7, 2009, during maintenance and repair to the dairy’s refrigeration system. Workers draining part of the system allowed the ammonia solution to flow onto the building’s roof and into a storm drain.

State investigators said about 50 to 70 gallons of the liquid flowed into a storm drain system discharging into the East Fork of Issaquah Creek.

Soon, a state Department of Fish and Wildlife survey team conducting a salmon spawning survey in the creek noticed a strong ammonia odor and observed about 40 to 50 dead fish downstream from the Darigold storm water outfall. The dead fish included four adult chinook salmon, a coho salmon, trout and sculpin.

Department of Ecology officials said Darigold’s Issaquah plant had not received penalties from the agency during the past five years. The agency issued the industrial water quality permit for the facility to operate.

“We sincerely regret this incident,” Steven Rowe, Darigold senior vice president of legal and public affairs, said in a statement. “Additional training and safeguards have been implemented to make sure that it does not happen again. Darigold takes its responsibility for the protection of the environment and the Issaquah Creek very seriously. We have a longstanding commitment to the creek and the salmon that spawn there, including the well water we provide to the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery. We continually strive to be an important contributor in the Issaquah community.”

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