Pipeline Co. Pleads Guilty, Pays $1 Million for Fish Kill
Mid-America Pipeline Company, pleaded guilty recently to negligently
releasing 200,000 gallons of ammonia into a Kansas creek, requiring the
evacuation of nearby residents and killing 25,000 fish. The company
agreed to pay a $1 million criminal penalty.
In October 2004, a pipeline owned by the company ruptured approximately
six miles west of Kingman, Kan., releasing approximately 204,000
gallons of ammonia into Smoots Creek. Several endangered species were
among the fish killed. The company failed to provide correct
information to the National Response Center and local responders about
the magnitude of the release, delaying a more comprehensive response.
The ammonia spread through at least 12 miles of the creek.
"Failure to accurately report spills of toxic chemicals weakens EPA's
ability to effectively respond to chemical incidents," said Granta
Nakayama, EPA's assistant administrator for enforcement and compliance
assurance. "The company's negligence made the situation worse."
As required by law, the company notified the National Response Center,
but incorrectly reported that only 20 gallons of ammonia had been
released to the creek. For ammonia, companies must report any releases
over 100 pounds, which is equivalent to approximately 15 gallons. The
company did not submit a revised notification until about six weeks
after the release.
"The ruptured pipe created a vapor cloud forty feet high, and caused a
number of residents to evacuate their homes," said U.S. Attorney Eric
Melgren. "When liquid ammonia flowed into a 10-mile stretch of a
tributary of Smoots Creek, more than 25,000 fish were killed."
Anhydrous ammonia is a highly corrosive, toxic and hazardous liquid,
and can be fatal to humans if ingested, inhaled or absorbed through the
Once notified, the National Response Center engages federal support of
state and local emergency response activities. The EPA and other
emergency responders use this information to evaluate the nature and
extent of a hazardous substance release, prevent exposure and minimize
The company pleaded guilty to negligently violating the federal Clean
Water. The criminal penalty will be paid into the Oil Spill and
Hazardous Substances Clean-Up Trust Fund.