DEER ISLAND — Officials at Dyno Nobel confirmed the company is under investigation by the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA is reportedly looking into possible criminal charges stemming from a 2010 ammonia leak.
But neither the EPA nor Dyno Nobel officials are talking. EPA spokesperson Mark MacIntyre said he could not confirm nor deny there was an active investigation and declined to comment further.
Dyno Nobel Director of Communications Jodi Morgan said, “We consistently invest significant resources to ensure that we’re compliant with all laws and regulations that are applicable to our business and the field that we’re in. But due to the fact that there is an investigation ongoing, I really can’t say anything else.”
The investigation is believed to be related to a late-August leak that occurred following a power failure in which several tons of ammonia was released over several days before employees discovered the leak.
This is not the first time the Deer Island facility has been in hot water with the EPA. A 2008 ammonia leak in which 448 pounds of ammonia was leaked eventually resulted in a $17,000 fine. The September 2009 settlement with the EPA also included an order to install an ammonia monitoring system and provide equipment to Columbia River Fire & Rescue. The total cost for the equipment was estimated at $72,000.
CRF&R Division Chief Brian Burright confirmed Dyno Nobel did provide the fire district with the required equipment. The estimated cost of that equipment, according to EPA documents, was $16,000.
According to the EPA settlement, the penalties were level against Dyno Nobel because the company failed to notify appropriate emergency response authorities of the Sept. 28, 2008, ammonia leak for nearly 11 hours after it occurred. EPA regulations require immediate notification to federal, state and local authorities of any release of hazardous materials.
A 2010 Toxics Release Inventory issued by the EPA for Oregon list Dyno Nobel as sixth in the state for toxic chemical releases with more than 700,000 total releases. A release is defined as “the amount of a toxic chemical released on-site (to air, water, underground injection, landfills and other land disposal), and the amount transmitted off site for disposal.” Clatskanie’s Georgia Pacific Consumer Products was the only other Columbia County company on the list. Georgia Pacific came in at eighth place with 531,000 releases.
Dyno Nobel, which is a subsidiary of Australian-based chemical producer Incitec Pivot Ltd., is one of the largest explosives manufacturers in the world. The Deer Island facility sits just off U.S. Highway 30 just 3 miles north of St. Helen and produces agricultural-grade nitrogen fertilizers and chemicals used to reduce pollution from power plants. The facility employs approximately 65 people.