The Eggo Company has been fined about $85,000 after being convicted for releasing toxic gas at a waffle factory in California, the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office announced last week.
The Kellogg-owned waffle maker was convicted and sentenced on Friday for a “large release of toxic ammonia” from its San Jose factory in January 2021, the district attorney’s office said.
It happened when a subcontractor damaged a pipe while on a scissor lift, the district attorney’s office said. The pipe then “began leaking anhydrous ammonia, a toxic gas that can cause severe injury or death.”
Eggo managers believed they had stopped the leak, and did not call 911 for more than an hour. The district attorney’s office said that this delay “contributed to the emergency,” which resulted in approximately 3,400 pounds of anhydrous ammonia escaping into the neighborhood surrounding the factory.
While no injures were reported, residents had to shelter in place for several hours while emergency responders worked to stop the leak, the district attorney’s office said.
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“Public safety and the environment are threatened with every passing minute in these cases,” Santa Clara County’s Deputy District Attorney Jason Bussey said in a statement. “When companies fail to immediately report a release, they face serious consequences.”
USA TODAY reached out to the Kellogg Company for a statement from Eggo Tuesday morning.
What is anhydrous ammonia?
Anhydrous ammonia is a source of nitrogen fertilizer that is widely used in agriculture, as well as refrigeration and manufacturing under state and federal regulations. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration notes that the substance is commonly used as a refrigerant in industrial facilities processing meat, dairy products, alcoholic beverages and more.
Eggo, for example, uses the substance at its San Jose factory to freeze waffles, the district attorney’s office said.
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Could an ammonia leak be deadly?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, exposure to the toxic gas or liquid can result in injuries including burns, frostbite, lung irritation and corrosion damage to the eyes, throat, stomach and other parts of the body, depending on the type of exposure. The severity of injures ranges, but significant exposure can be fatal, the CDC says.
Criminal charges against Kellogg-owned Eggo
For the release of anhydrous ammonia at Eggo’s San Jose factory, the waffle maker was “criminally charged with negligently discharging an air contaminant, failing to immediately report that release, providing inadequate training to its contractors, and failing to implement an adequate emergency action plan,” the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office said on Friday.
The district attorney’s office added that, following the January 2021 incident, Eggo has “cooperated with regulatory authorities and is upgrading its systems and procedures to prevent future releases.”
Story Credit: usatoday.com