The Washington Department of Ecology has fined Darigold Inc. for releasing a toxic ammonia solution into the East Fork of Issaquah Creek last year, killing 40 to 50 fish downstream from its Issaquah plant. These included sculpin, trout, four adult Chinook and at least one adult Coho salmon.
Darigold, which in 2008 reported $2.2 billion in revenues, was fined $10,000 for the spill. The $10,000 fine is the maximum state penalty authorized under the Washington Water Pollution Control Act.
According to a media release from Ecology today, on Oct. 7, 2009, workers draining the dairy-product plant’s refrigeration system allowed an ammonia solution to flow onto the building’s roof and into a storm drain.
Ecology spokesperson Larry Altose told The Reporter today the incident was a “fairly serious” violation of Darigold’s waste water and treatment permit, and described the breach as “very unacceptable.”
He said that following spills of this nature, Ecology conducted water and toxin level testing at the spill site, with cooperation from the company involved. Darigold was then charged with the responsibility of improving internal systems and conducting follow up water and toxin tests.
“Then we grade the papers,” Altose said.
He said the release of a toxic substance into Issaquah Creek indicated a lack of planning and preventative strategies, and hoped the incident would promote “better oversight and management” at the plant.
“Management seems to have taken this quite seriously, and brought some internal consequences to bear,” Altose said.
Approximately 50-70 gallons of the liquid – which is toxic to aquatic life – flowed into the storm drain system that discharges into the East Fork of Issaquah Creek. The East Fork of Issaquah Creek flows via Issaquah Creek into Lake Sammamish, which empties via Lake Washington into Puget Sound.