Vegetable processing plant fined for releasing ammonia into Yakima River

The Washington Department of Ecology has issued a penalty of $80,000 to an Ellensburg vegetable processing plant for causing excessive amounts of ammonia to be released to the Yakima River...

YAKIMA, WA, May 7, 2009 -- The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) has issued a penalty of $80,000 to an Ellensburg vegetable processing plant for causing excessive amounts of ammonia to be released to the Yakima River in violation of state water quality standards.

During maintenance of its refrigeration system Feb. 18-23, 2009, vegetable packer Twin City Foods released high levels of ammonia to the city of Ellensburg wastewater treatment plant, causing the city to violate its effluent permit limits for ammonia to the Yakima River.

The release also damaged the city's ability to properly treat waste water and posed a threat to workers exposed to air releases of ammonia at the treatment plant.

Ammonia is highly toxic to aquatic organisms, including fish. Even small concentrations of ammonia are lethal to some sensitive freshwater fish.

Twin City is permitted to discharge process wastewater to the city of Ellensburg from the months of November to March under prescribed limitations outlined in a water quality permit. From Apr. through October the plant applies its waste to a spray field as irrigation.

No amount of ammonia release is allowed.

Twin City has 30 days to pay the penalty or file an appeal with the Pollution Control Hearings Board. The company may also apply for relief from the penalty to Ecology.

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