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PORTLAND, Ore. – Today in federal court, U.S. District Judge Michael H. Simon ordered Dyno Nobel, Inc., the owner of a urea plant near St. Helens, Oregon, to pay $250,000 for violating section 103(b) of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), following a series of large-scale ammonia discharges in July and August 2015. Dyno Nobel will also serve a two-year term of probation for the class-E felony.
According to Dyno Nobel’s plea agreement with the government, the company’s St. Helens plant discharged more than six tons of anhydrous ammonia vapor—a hazardous substance—into the air over the course of a three-day period starting on July 30, 2015. A subsequent investigation revealed that several failed attempts to restart the urea plant had caused a series of massive discharges from the facility, triggering numerous complaints of foul odors, eye irritation, and difficulty breathing from citizens of nearby Columbia City, Oregon.
Although Dyno Nobel personnel knew that excessive ammonia emissions were occurring, no effort was made to alert the authorities at the National Response Center until August 7, 2015—more than a week after the first discharge. Federal law requires such reports to be made “immediately.”
Dyno Nobel, Inc. is a Delaware corporation and wholly owned subsidiary of IPL Group. The company previously pleaded guilty to the violation on February 23, 2018.
This case was investigated by EPA Criminal Investigations; it was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan W. Bounds and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Karla Gebel Perrin.