Waffle-maker company Eggo has been fined $85,000 after being convicted of negligently releasing toxic ammonia from a factory in San Jose, California, prosecutors announced.
The release took place on Jan. 22, 2021 when a subcontractor on a scissor lift “damaged a pipe that began leaking anhydrous ammonia,” a refrigerant used to freeze waffles produced at the factory, the Santa Clara District Attorney’s Office said.
Prosecutors said anhydrous ammonia is a toxic gas that can cause “severe injury or death.”
Eggo managers failed to call 911 until over an hour passed, believing they had stopped the leak.
During the delay, 3,400 pounds of anhydrous ammonia escape the factory into the surrounding neighborhood, prompting residents to shelter in place for several hours until the leak was stopped, prosecutors said. However, no injuries were reported, the district attorney’s office said.
Eggo did not immediately respond to a request for comment from NBC News but earlier told the San Francisco Examiner, “Since that time, we’ve made a number of significant enhancements to our processes and protocols to ensure we have the safest possible environment for our employees and neighbors.”
Eggo was criminally charged with negligently discharging an air contaminant, failing to immediately report the release, providing inadequate training to contractors, and failing to implement an adequate emergency action plan.
The company was sentenced Friday.
“Public safety and the environment are threatened with every passing minute in these cases,” Deputy District Attorney Jason Bussey said. “When companies fail to immediately report a release, they face serious consequences.”
Since the fiasco, Eggo has cooperated with regulatory authorities and is upgrading its systems and procedures to prevent future gas releases, prosecutors said.