Darigold Inc. failed to immediately notify federal and state emergency authorities of a chlorine gas release in 2012 at a milk facility in Portland, Oregon, according to a settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. By law, facilities are required to report hazardous releases to state and federal emergency response authorities in a timely manner. The facility produces ultra pasteurized milk products.
“Emergency responders need to know immediately when a hazardous release occurs so they can protect the public,” said Kelly McFadden, Manager of the Pesticides and Toxics Unit in EPA’s Office of Compliance and Enforcement. “This facility is located in a populated urban area. Chlorine gas is extremely harmful to breathe. In this case, the facility was evacuated two separate times and twelve people were hospitalized.”
Eight Darigold employees, a truck driver, two contractors and a person who was driving by at the time of the incident were sent to the hospital.
On the morning of May 30, 2012, a truck driver arrived to off-load a nitric acid and phosphoric acid-based chemical solution that is used for sanitizing at the facility. The driver improperly connected the hose from the truck containing the chemical solution to a tank containing sodium hydroxide and sodium hypochlorite, resulting in a violent chemical reaction and the chlorine gas release.
Darigold became aware of the release at 10:16 a.m. and notified the fire department at 10:31 a.m. but failed to immediately notify state and federal emergency response authorities. The chlorine gas release continued until about 4:00 p.m.
Federal law requires that facilities immediately report chemical releases exceeding certain thresholds to federal, state and local authorities. For chlorine gas, the threshold is ten pounds. The Darigold facility released about 166 pounds in this incident.
Chlorine gas is highly toxic and can cause burning of the eyes, nose, and mouth, as well as nausea, dizziness, vomiting, respiratory impacts and death.
The facility violated the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act.
Darigold has agreed to pay over $42,000 to settle the violations.
Information provided by the EPA.