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04-21-06 EPA fines Dannon

By Margie Wuebker

  The Dannon Co. of Minster has been fined $10,000 in the wake of an accidental discharge of cleaning solvent and dairy products into the Miami-Erie Canal in September.

  The discharge, reportedly caused by employee error, killed more than 33,000 fish in a two-mile stretch of the canal that flows through Minster.

  Jane Beathard, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, confirmed reports company representatives paid the fine last month at the agency's Columbus headquarters.

  Michael Neuwirth, senior director of public relations for Dannon, told The Daily Standard the fine came as no surprise to company officials. He also confirmed company lawyers continue to negotiate with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency regarding expected enforcement action.

  "Hopefully, those negotiations will be completed soon," he said. It is not known what type of sanction will be imposed.  Beathard said the fine covers the cost of the investigation as well as the dead fish.

  Investigators used information from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Agency to compute the cost of fish ranging from minnows to bass ranging from a dime to $10 or $15 each. Eight wildlife officers were involved in the Sept. 13 count.

  A Dannon employee reportedly activated a pump supplying ammonia-rich solvent and inadvertently let it run, sending nearly 4,000 gallons to the company's pretreatment facility. The discharge wiped out beneficial microorganisms, which play an active role in the treatment of milk-based waste products and other sewage.

  Untreated Dannon sewage then overwhelmed the village wastewater treatment plant resulting in the discharge into the canal. The concentration dissipated before it could affect more fish downstream.

  Lead investigator Joel Buddelmeyer pegged the fish kill as the largest in the area since 2001. More than 103,000 fish perished in the wake of an anhydrous ammonia spill in Darke County that year.

  Neuwirth said Dannon has focused on several areas to lessen the likelihood of similar occurrences. Employees have completed updated training and reviewed notification procedures.


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