A Utah company that makes commercial explosives plead guilty in US District Court to releasing six tons of anhydrous ammonia into the air, The Oregonian reports. The plea was entered Friday. The strongly-scented gas is toxic, and can lead to death at high levels of exposure. Irritation of mucous membranes, coughing, and breathing problems are also common. Dyno Nobel, Inc. had failed to immediately report the discharge to the National Response Center, who has oversight under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, or “CERCLA.” Company officers waited nearly a week before reporting the leak which began on July 30, 2015. The fine will be $250,000 and also include 2 years’ probation. The potential penalty is $500,000 and 5 years of probation. Presumably the Environmental Protection Agency could shut the business down in the event of any further serious incidents. The failure to immediately report the incident was particularly grave in the minds of prosecutors.
Residents of St. Helens did complain about the smell, and some began to experience the symptoms of ammonia exposure. The company has been working with the government to improve its safety procedures, and to make use of new technologies to improve air quality, but this event harms that effort. It’s unclear why the reporting delay even took place, but that is the substance of the charges.
Beyond the criminal case, civil liability could significantly impact Dyno Nobel. If the discomforts become a series of personal injury cases, it could be very damaging for the company. Personal injury law helps provide an economic incentive to be mindful of regulations, customer and employee safety, and the common good. If you have a personal injury claim in the Portland area, contact Ed Kroll and Justin Johnson as soon as possible. It’s more difficult to obtain justice, the longer you wait. They are Portland personal injury lawyers with years of experience, and success.