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96,000 fish killed after chlorine leak at seafood facility

CBS News logo CBS News 8/10/2021 Tori B. Powell
a turtle swimming under water: Dead Salmon after spawning © Education Images Dead Salmon after spawning

International seafood company Grieg Seafood leaked nearly 4,000 gallons of chlorine into a northern Norway fjord, killing approximately 96,000 fish, the company announced Tuesday. Grieg Seafood — which supplies more than 25,000 tons of salmon to North America and Asia each year — said no employees or other people were harmed.

"This is very sad," Stine Torheim, manager of the Alta, Norway, harvesting plant said in a statement Tuesday. "Our focus is now first and foremost on cleaning up. We will get all facts about this incident on the table, to ensure that it will not happen again."

Grieg Seafood said the leak had a "short-term, acute impact on organisms that were in the water around the harvesting plant when the incident occurred." The company uses chlorine to disinfect processing water at its harvesting plant, a standard practice in Norway. The company said the chemical element is "rapidly diluted and breaks down quickly in water."

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Grieg Seafood Finnmark will be managing the cleanup of harvesting pens, which is expected to take several days to complete, the company said. The dead fish, which the company said are insured, will be taken care of by the plant's silage system and boats that the company said are continuously monitored. 

Local police said the leaked chlorine has already flowed into the Atlantic Ocean and that emergency services were working to completely understand the incident. 

Grieg Seafood said Tuesday that they do not yet have a comprehensive overview of the leak's environmental impacts, but that a company associated with the Norwegian Institute for Water Research will conduct an independent environmental assessment that is expected to take "a few days."

The company said it "cooperates fully with all authorities, and awaits their investigation into the course of events that led to the leak." 

While Grieg Seafood said the financial consequences of the mishap are not immediately clear, Norwegian media company Intrafish, which covers the global seafood industry, estimated the value of the dead fish to be approximately $3.4 million

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