Darigold fined $10,000 for 2009 ammonia spill
October 26, 2010
By Warren Kagarise
The state Department of Ecology has imposed a $10,000 fine on Darigold for a 2009 ammonia spill into Issaquah Creek.
The state announced the fine — the maximum penalty under state law — a little more than a year after the spill killed salmon and other fish in the midst of salmon-spawning season. Darigold has 30 days from the Oct. 19 announcement to appeal the penalty to the state Pollution Control Hearings Board.
The spill occurred Oct. 7, 2009, during maintenance and repair to the refrigeration system at the downtown Issaquah dairy. State investigators said a crew draining part of the refrigeration system allowed a toxic ammonia solution to flow onto the roof of the creekside building and down a storm drain.
Under state law, the Department of Ecology had until October 2011 to issue a penalty against Seattle-based Darigold. The state agency conducted a follow-up investigation to determine how the spill had originated. Then, investigators sent the findings to the state Attorney General’s Office for review.
“In ‘Columbo,’ it all happens in one hour, but in reality in actually takes several weeks,” Department of Ecology spokesman Larry Altose said.
State investigators said about 50 to 70 gallons of the liquid flowed into a storm drain system and discharged into the East Fork of Issaquah Creek. In the moments after the spill, a state Department of Fish and Wildlife survey team conducting a salmon spawning survey in the creek smelled a strong ammonia odor and observed about 40 to 50 dead fish downstream from the Darigold storm water outfall. The dead fish included adult chinook and coho salmon, trout and sculpin, a small fish.
“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.”
Department of Ecology officials said the local Darigold plant had not received penalties from the agency since at least 2005. The agency issued the industrial water quality permit for the facility to operate.
In the aftermath of the spill, Darigold has updated procedures to prevent similar accidents in the future.
“We sincerely regret this incident,” Steven Rowe, senior vice president of legal and public affairs at the dairy co-op, 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.”
Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.