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09-17-05 Dannon plans to fix problems from discharge

By Margie Wuebker
mwuebker@dailystandard.com

  The Dannon Co. plans to meet next week with the Miami-Erie Canal Corridor Authority in the wake of an accidental discharge that resulted in the death of more than 8,000 fish in a two-mile stretch of the canal that flows through Minster.

  Michael Neuwirth, senior director of public relations for Dannon, told The Daily Standard the meeting would likely take place Wednesday.
  "We want to determine the best and fastest means of correcting the environmental impact," he added. "That could mean restocking the canal to make up for all the fish lost."
  The yogurt company, which produces two-thirds of the yogurt sold here in the United States, is implementing steps to assure that another discharge does not take place in the future.
  Some 4,000 gallons of concentrated cleaner and dairy products wiped out the beneficial bacteria in Dannon's pretreatment facility before overwhelming the Minster wastewater treatment plant. The ammonia-rich effluent then traveled into the canal killing catfish, large and smallmouth bass, crappies and carp.  The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency believes human error was a factor in the discharge, according to spokeswoman Dina Pierce. It appears a valve was left open sometime during the weekend at the Dannon complex along state Route 66 at the south edge of Minster.
  "We are looking at procedures, training programs and equipment," Neuwirth said. "We are being very proactive in determining how best to remedy the situation. After all, Minster is our neighborhood too."
  Dannon quit pumping sewage to Minster's wastewater treatment facility as soon as the problem was discovered Monday morning. Private waste haulers transported waste from the company until the EPA approved resumption of regular operations at the wastewater plant.
  Neuwirth noted Dannon initially cut production 30 to 40 percent over the course of 112 days. The company turns out 3 million cups of yogurt per day.
   Employees remained on the job. Those not directly involved in production were assigned to preventive maintenance, cleaning or training programs.
  Things are getting back to normal at Minster's wastewater treatment plant, according to superintendent Dan Haehn. In addition to purchasing engineered microorganisms that aid in the treatment of sewage, the village obtained 17,000 gallons of activated sludge containing beneficial bacteria.
  Minster employees initially stopped discharging effluent into the canal and has resumed treating domestic sewage.
  Initially, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources feared the ammonia-rich discharge might have flowed south to Loramie Creek and Shelby County. Fortunately, the concentration dissipated before it could affect fish downstream.
  Officials at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources have not compiled a bill as yet to cover the cost of the dead fish and the investigation. Pierce indicated it was too soon to determine whether Dannon would be cited in the wake of the discharge.
  However, all of those involved in the investigation have praised the company and village employees for their cooperation and rapid response.

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