A unit of the largest investor-owned water company in the country has been filtering naturally-occurring arsenic from water in Monterey County and illegally shipping the resulting arsenic-laced sludge to unsuitable landfills since 2008.
This month, the California American Water Company agreed to stop doing that and pay a $389,000 penalty. The company admitted no wrong-doing as part of the agreement.
Cal Am began its treatment of arsenic after new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations lowered the allowable limit of the poison in drinking water. But the company failed to consistently test the sludge after mixing in the extracted arsenic at three water treatment facilities and sending it to the Marina landfill north of Monterey. The landfill was not equipped to handle hazardous materials.
An investigation began last year after an anonymous tip to the state Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), according to the Monterey County Weekly. The hazardous waste was being shipped from Cal Am facilities at Ambler Park, Toro Park and Ryan Ranch.
As Monterey County Deputy DA Dije Ndreu pointed out, “It's more expensive and a lot more work to do the proper channels and send it off as hazardous waste.”
Monterey County officials said Cal Am was cooperative once they were caught and District Attorney Dean Flippo signed the agreement with the company last Friday, shortly after filing a complaint in Superior Court listing at least 12 violations of California health and safety regulations.
A chunk of the settlement, $60,000, will go to the California District Attorneys Association Circuit Prosecutor Project to aid rural DAs prosecute environmental crimes.