The Columbus Salame company, whose manufacturing operations are down in South San Francisco, was fined $700,000 by the EPA yesterday and ordered to spend $6 million upgrading their facilities in the wake of a 2009 gas incident that sent 17 to the hospital. Apparently, the company's refrigeration system let out a toxic fart that released 217 pounds of anhydrous ammonia in to the air back in February of 2009, forcing the closure of Highway 101 and sickening downwind employees at Genentech nearby.
The ammonia gas had the potential to cause temporary blindness, skin irritation and even death with prolonged exposure. As part of Columbus' settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency, the company has already moved it's refrigeration system in to an enclosed, self-contained building.
While explaining that his company takes the environmental and safety concerns very seriously, Columbus CEO Tim Fallon totally blamed the gas release on a third-party contractor who was upgrading the facilities at the time.