Former Santa Clara Waste Water Company Officials Sentenced For Dumping Hazardous Materials In Chiquita Canyon
Two former officials from Santa Clara Waste Water Company (SCWWC) were sentenced for fraud after pleading guilty of dumping hazardous materials into the Chiquita Canyon Landfill, according to officials.
On Nov. 22, former SCWWC employees Gus Baker and Mark Avila were sentenced to 36 months of probation, two months of suspended jail time and a $150 fine by the Superior Court of Ventura County, according to officials with the U.S. Department of Transportation, Office of Inspector General (DOT-OIG).
Baker and Avila were charged with circumventing hazardous materials regulations in November of 2015. They pleaded guilty to “failing to warn of a serious concealed danger, impeding enforcement and illegally storing and labeling hazardous materials,” according to an official statement from the DOT-OIG.
The DOT-OIG opened an investigation in 2014 following the explosion of a vacuum cargo tank trailer containing hazardous waste materials in the SCWWC facility in Santa Paula.
The explosion caused 1,000 gallons of chemicals to be spilled, a fire that caused more explosions involving hazardous materials, and a blanket of toxic smoke that covered the surrounding area, which prompted officials to evacuate everyone within a one-mile radius, according to officials.
“Two SCWWC employees and three Santa Paula firefighters who responded to the blast were hurt,” reads the DOT-OIG statement. “The firefighters entered SCWWC without any special protection after they were told it was only a sewage explosion. All three firefighters went on disability leave, and the fire engine was destroyed.”
The DOT-OIG’s investigation found that SCWWC stored hazardous materials in excess of what was permitted for their treatment process. The day of the explosion, the SCWWC facility was to be inspected and hazardous waste materials were “sucked from approximately 20 unlabeled chemical totes into a vacuum cargo tank trailer when the explosion occurred,” according to officials.
Additional hazardous materials were allegedly disposed via wastewater pipelines to the City of Oxnard’s sewage plant, and via trailers to the Chiquita Canyon Landfill, according to DOT-OIG officials
Neither the pipeline nor the trailers were approved for the disposal of hazardous waste, according to officials.
“Chiquita Canyon is not involved with any court decisions involving the Santa Clara Waste Water Company,” said John Musella, a spokesperson for Chiquita Canyon, when asked for comment. “We do not comment on other companies’ legal issues.”
The full statement from the DOT-OIG can be read here.
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