Kematen cosmetics, now protected by Safe Drain
Shampoo ingredient spill cost company US$80k in fines
A main ingredient of shampoo spilled into a north Redding creek last week, causing a lather and killing about 80 fish.
Workers with National Response Corporation Environmental Services in Chico still were cleaning up the spill Thursday from the Kematen Cosmetics USA plant on Mountain Lakes Boulevard into Buckeye Creek.
“That stuff is a lot more toxic than people think and the fish are proving it,” said Jane Vorpagel, a water quality biologist with the state Department of Fish and Game.
The chemical — sodium laureth sulfate — causes shampoo to foam and kills fish by clogging up their gills, she said.
“It basically smothers them to death,” Vorpagel said.
Less than 100 gallons of the foaming agent spilled from a storage tank onto Kematen’s parking lot Jan. 15, according a statement released Thursday by Morgan Barker, Kematen’s marketing and sales project coordinator.
The liquid was being delivered to the plant by a tanker truck about 10:45 a.m. that Tuesday, said Lt. Scott Willems, patrol supervisor with Fish and Game. A valve was left open and the liquid poured out of the storage tank that was being filled and onto the parking lot.
While most of the spill was collected in the lot, some got down a storm drain, which leads into an unnamed tributary to Buckeye Creek, said Jim Pedri, assistant executive officer for the Regional Water Quality Control Board. From Buckeye Creek, the water flows into Churn Creek, which flows into the Sacramento River.
“A lot more was spilled that got into the creek,” he said.
Water board officials are evaluating whether the company will be fined for the spill, Pedri said, and are taking the cleanup effort into account.
Kematen has four plants in Europe, as well as the Redding facility. The plant used to house KMS Research, but was bought by Kematen in summer 2005 after the staff had been cut from about 120 to 60 workers.
While the spill happened about the middle of last week, Willems said he waited to put the word out about it because he had to get approval from his chain of command. He said that includes his patrol captain, assistant chief and then officials in Sacramento, including the Fish and Game’s public relations department.
Willems said he’s gotten approval to release information about future spills when they happened, rather than withholding the information.
The creek cleanup will last as long as the toxic liquid is detected. A quick test of the water can be done with a hand or a stick, said Brian Boyd, a Fish and Game warden.
“If you run your hand through the water, it will bubble up pretty good,” he said.
Cleanup crews have built a small dam, allowing the contaminated water to be pumped into tanker trucks and then put into the sewer system, said Vorpagel, the water quality biologist.