The State Department of Ecology reported this week that Fleischmann’s Vinegar in Sumner has been given a $23,000 penalty “for spilling concentrated vinegar at its Sumner plant in June, and for other wastewater discharge permit violations.”
Some 2,000 gallons of the stuff spilled “onto the ground and into two stormwater ponds when corroded steel hoops failed on a large, wooden storage tank. The equipment continued to leak for weeks after the initial spill,” the department said in a release. “The company did not report the spill. Ecology learned of the incident from an anonymous source.”
The vinegar was about three times stronger than regular household vinegar.
“Fortunately, the vinegar was captured in stormwater ponds so there was no harm to plants and animals,” said Rich Doenges, a manager in the Water Quality Program in Ecology’s Southwest Regional Office. “The greatest risk was to people as this concentrated vinegar can cause skin burns and eye damage, and had the potential to contaminate groundwater.”
Following the department’s initial response and inspections, Fleischmann’s has responded by constructing a containment berm around the tanks, relocating the cooling water line to further cool water before being discharged into the White River, replacing a submersible pump to prevent wastewater from overflowing a tank farm sump and removing oil-stained gravel that had been contaminated by a leaking compressor.
Following the removal of the vinegar and contaminated soil, the ponds were filled with soil and graded. The spilled vinegar was pumped into a holding tank where it is being treated and discharged to Sumner’s sewage treatment plant. Contaminated soil will be sent to a landfill that’s permitted for this type of material.
Fleischmann’s Vinegar may appeal the penalty and order within 30 days to the Pollution Control Hearings Board.