Morgan Hill mushroom grower charged with toxic dumping

ByMelanie Woodrow via KGO logo
Friday, December 28, 2018
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A Morgan Hill mushroom grower is being accused of deliberately dumping toxic wastewater into a creek that ended up in San Francisco Bay.

MORGAN HILL, Calif. (KGO) -- 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.

The District Attorney's Office says that Monterey Mushrooms in Morgan Hill has been pumping wastewater from its stormwater holding pond and tanks into Fisher Creek for years.

"They knew what they were doing," said Denise Raabe, a Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney in the Environmental Protection Unit.

"The case was brought to our attention from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife in early 2016," said Raabe.

Fisher Creek flows into Coyote Creek, which runs into the San Francisco Bay.

"This is the source of the water that flows into the Bay. It's the source of our drinking water and it is totally inappropriate to be continuing to discharge or dump wastewater into creeks," said Raabe.

Raabe also says the Morgan Hill facility allowed contaminated stormwater from its compost processing and used compost areas to flow into waterways.

Investigators documented two occasions in January of 2017 where Monterey Mushrooms, allegedly pumped approximately 700,000 gallons of wastewater into Fisher Creek during a 48 hour period.

The DA's Office says the discharged wastewater sampled tested positive for toxic levels of ammonia.

Monterey Mushrooms released a statement saying:

"We are shocked and disappointed at the filing of this lawsuit, as the company has been in active communication and dialogue with the Santa Clara County District Attorney's office as recently as last month. This dialogue stems from the deluge of catastrophic winter storms of late 2016 and early 2017, the same time Coyote Creek overflowed and flooded areas within Santa Clara County and the Oroville Dam crisis occurred. Our Morgan Hill facility was inundated by these record storms and rainwater volume, which resulted in a record release of process water, primarily rainwater, leaving the property. Due to this experience, the company has collaborated with county and state agents and spent millions of dollars to install additional storage, as well as engineer the separation of stormwater. Monterey Mushrooms has a long history being a responsible member of the community and is committed to the highest standards of environmental compliance."