Green Guide

Water regulators rescind $1.5M fine against tomato company

Posted March 14

— State water regulators rescinded a $1.5 million fine levied against one of California's top tomato processing companies they said had been polluting groundwater after the company uncovered documents contradicting officials.

The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board imposed the fine last year against Morning Star Packing Co. for expanding two wastewater ponds from 60 to 100 acres without permission and improperly disposing of millions of gallons of waste.

The company said Tuesday the decision to rescind the fine came after its lawyers received a report through a Public Records Act request that showed water board staff member summarizing a meeting in which Morning Star informed them of the pond expansions at the plant in Williams.

After the water board rescinded the fine, Morning Star agreed to dismiss a lawsuit it filed against the state last July in Colusa County Superior Court, the company said.

In its February decision to rescind the fine, the state board said that the company's lawsuit alerted it to documents that were not included during the administrative hearing when the fine was imposed. It said the documents showed discrepancies with statements made by the prosecution team but didn't give details.

Water board officials didn't immediately return a message seeking comment.

The board said last year that its staff discovered the expansion after receiving odor complaints from plant neighbor.

An estimated 266 million gallons of wastewater were discharged from the ponds' unauthorized expansion to groundwater, the board said.

Morning Star Packing Co. is a leading supplier of tomato products with plants in Northern and Southern California.

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