In October 2009, Department of Fish and Wildlife agents were doing a fish survey at Issaquah Creek when they noticed the strong smell of ammonia and dead fish--some endangered--floating all around them. Nearby was a Darigold Dairy plant.
And yesterday, Darigold executives admitted in court, as part of a plea agreement, that the ammonia spill was a direct result of the company's incompetence.
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 terms of the plea agreement, Darigold plans to work alongside the federal government to develop a corporate environmental compliance plan as part of the sentence. Including the downtown Issaquah processing facility, Seattle-based Darigold operates 13 processing facilities in five states.
The company must also pay a $10,000 fine and pay $60,000 to protect and restore natural resources in the Issaquah Creek watershed. Darigold also agreed to publicly apologize for the criminal conduct by publishing a statement in The Issaquah Press.
Some 50 to 70 gallons of ammonia are believed to have been dumped into the creek, causing the deaths of 40 to 50 fish, some of which were endangered chinook salmon.
The $10,000 fine is the maximum fine allowed under the law for such a spill, and the $60,000 extra will go directly to conservation efforts for the Issaquah Creek.
Although with annual sales of $1.3 billion, the fines levied are chump change to Darigold.