Santa Clara DA Sues Major Mushroom Company for Dumping Waste in Creek

For release on December 27, 2018

CONTACT:

Denise Raabe, Deputy District Attorney
Environmental Protection Unit
(408) 792-2549

 

SANTA CLARA DA SUES MAJOR MUSHROOM COMPANY FOR DUMPING WASTE IN CREEK

The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office filed a $67 million environmental protection lawsuit this week, accusing one of the nation’s largest mushroom growers with intentionally dumping wastewater containing toxic levels of ammonia into a county creek.

Monterey Mushrooms, Inc. has, on numerous occasions and for years, pumped wastewater from its storm water holding pond and process water holding tanks at the Morgan Hill facility into Fisher Creek. Fisher Creek flows into Coyote Creek, which runs into the San Francisco Bay.

“Businesses should never make illegal and dangerous trade-offs between pollution and profit,” District Attorney Jeff Rosen said after the Office filed the Complaint alleging dozens of unfair business practices and Fish and Game violations. “We will vigilantly protect the health of our County’s waterways.”

An investigation by the California Department of Fish and Game and this Office showed that from early 2016 to the spring of 2017, Monterey Mushrooms, Inc. intentionally pumped deleterious wastewater from its holding ponds into waterways in order to dispose of the waste without incurring any cost. The Morgan Hill facility also allowed contaminated storm water from its compost processing and used compost areas to flow into waterways. Overflow pipes, culverts and hoses diverted wastewater into fields - which then flowed into Fisher Creek. Other pipes pumped wastewater directly into Fisher Creek. 

On two of the many occasions documented – January 7 and 8, 2017 – investigators estimate that Monterey Mushrooms, Inc. pumped approximately 700,000 gallons of wastewater into Fisher Creek during a forty-eight-hour period. On other occasions Investigators sampled the wastewater discharged into the waterways and tested for various toxic substances. In one instance the wastewater contained ammonia as nitrogen at 90 milligrams per liter. The amount defined as “acute toxicity” is 17 mg/L, as set by the Federal Environmental Protection Agency. The high levels of ammonia are created by the use of used horse stable hay and poultry manure in the company’s production process.

Coyote Creek is home to steelhead trout, California tiger salamanders and California red-legged frogs.

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