Credit: Nick Sarro / Unsplash

The Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office has reached a settlement with the Santa Maria–based fruit processing company Titan Frozen Fruit, after an incident at the company’s facility resulted in chlorine gas being released and Titan subsequently failed to properly implement a Hazardous Materials Business Plan (HMBP).

The incident at the facility occurred in August 2020, after two cleaning agents containing hazardous materials were mixed, causing the release of chlorine gas within the facility. Santa Maria City Fire responded to the incident, and at least five employees were treated for symptoms related to their exposure to the gas. 

When inspectors with Santa Barbara County’s Certified Unified Program Agency (CUPA) investigated the incident, they learned that the company’s HMBP failed to account for the possibility of the chemicals coming into contact with one another during cleaning operations. As a result, the HMBP had no procedures in place to ensure cleaning did not occur simultaneously, nor did it account for how the chemicals should be stored to prevent them from mixing. 

Titan fully cooperated with the CUPA investigation, and the violations were soon remedied. The final judgment includes the following provisions: $34,775 in civil penalties pursuant to the Health and Safety Code; $27,820 in civil penalties pursuant to the Business and Professions Code, for the enforcement of consumer protection laws; $6,955.00 in Supplemental Environmental Projects; $951.36 in cost recovery to the Santa Maria Fire Department; and an injunction that requires Titan to properly implement and regularly update its HMBP. 

District Attorney Joyce Dudley said of the case, “Violations involving the handling of hazardous materials pose a danger to members of the public and to first responders. As this case makes clear, they also threaten the safety of company employees. My office takes these violations very seriously, and we appreciate Titan’s cooperation in the resolution of this matter.”

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