Darigold manager gets probation for Issaquah Creek spill

December 6, 2011

By Warren Kagarise

The engineering manager responsible for a fish-killing ammonia spill from the downtown Darigold dairy has been sentenced to probation and community service for the October 2009 incident.

On Dec. 1, U.S. District Court Judge Mary Alice Theiler sentenced Darigold employee Gerald N. Marsland to two years probation and 70 hours of community service for the Issaquah Creek spill. Theiler also imposed a $2,000 fine on Marsland.

Darigold is required to pay a $10,000 fine and pay $60,000 to protect and restore natural resources in the Issaquah Creek watershed as a part of a plea agreement announced in June.

Prosecutors also said Marsland directed repairs and failed to prevent the spill. Prosecutors charged Marsland for violating the federal Clean Water Act.

Marsland’s attorney asked for his client to be sentenced to one year of probation and 50 hours of community service.

The ammonia 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.

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 Puget Sound chinook salmon — a species protected under the Endangered Species Act — coho salmon, trout and sculpin, a small fish. Investigators later said the spill killed mostly sculpin.

Under the plea agreement between Darigold and federal prosecutors, Darigold also agreed to publicly apologize for the criminal conduct by publishing a statement in The Issaquah Press.

In October 2010, the state Department of Ecology fined Darigold $10,000 for the spill — the maximum penalty under state law.

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