County Levies Record Fine For Kanasco's Toxic Spills

November 01, 1991|By Elise Armacost | Elise Armacost,Staff writer

A Brooklyn Park pharmaceutical firm that spilled toxic chemicals into county sewers last summer has been hit with the largest fine for wastewater violations in county history.

The county Department of Utilities announced yesterday that it is fining Kanasco Ltd. nearly $54,000 for violations stemming from two spills on May 5 and June 23. Kanasco, a penicillin manufacturer on Robinwood Road, dumped the industrial solvent methylene chloride, along with acetone and isopropyl alcohol, into the public drain.

"It's the largest fine ever related to pretreatment in the county," said Jody Vollmar, spokeswoman for the Utilities Department. The previous highest fine for wastewater violations was $3,000, she said.

Kanasco must pay the fine before it can apply to reconnect one of its two bathrooms to the sanitary system, Vollmar said. Even after itpays, it must acquire a new wastewater permit with additional monitoring and reporting requirements, establish new employee-training requirements and provide a schematic of its plumbing system.

It also must place a bond to ensure protection against future spills.

Vollmar said Kanasco's request for a special license to discharge industrial waste regularly into the public system also will not be considereduntil all fines are paid and requirements met, "if ever."

Kanascoofficials could not be reached for comment.

Elected officials, who have been helping North County residents fight Kanasco, said the steep fine was appropriate.

"These people had been completely ignoring our violations, giving half-excuses," said County Councilman George Bachman, D-Linthicum. "Something had to be done to show Kanasco we are serious. $54,000 is serious."

Sen. Philip C. Jimeno, D-Brooklyn Park, was happy to hear about the fine, "but the citizens in this area won't be satisfied until the place is closed down," he said.

Kanasco has a 17-year history of dumping violations. A methylene chloride spill in 1988 sent 10 Ferndale families to the hospital. Some neighbors were found unconscious in their homes after fumes crept through the plumbing.

The bulk of the fine -- $46,000 -- was levied for Kanasco's failure to respond within five days to the county's emergency notice asking them to explain the June 23 leak, Vollmar said. Kanasco did not respond until 46 days had passed, and was fined $1,000 for each day.

The county could have fined Kanasco another $44,000 --$1,000 for each of the 44 days it took them to respond to the emergency notice for the May 5 spill, Vollmar said. Instead, the county ordered them to pay only $1,000 for this delay.

The rest of the fine addresses the actual violations:

* $1,000 for exceeding discharge limits.

* $1,000 for discharging non-domestic, non-sanitary wastewater.

* $3,000 for discharging prohibited substances.

* $1,000 for violating technical review requirements.

Civil fines accountedfor $44,600 of the penalty. The remainder, $9,439, is to cover costsincurred by the Utilities Department.

The department's order was dated Oct. 23. A Health Department order dated Oct. 18 does not include fines but orders Kanasco to cease violations of the county health code.

Future violations could result in civil fines of up to $25 aday and maximum criminal penalties of a $1,000 fine, six months in jail and an injunction to seal the plant, the Health Department order says.

Kanasco may appeal the Utilities Department's fine to the county Board of Appeals, Bachman said.

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