California-based Monterey Mushrooms is facing a $67 million lawsuit, accused of polluting a local creek with manure, according to officials with the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office, who filed the lawsuit in late December.
The Mercury News reported that the county’s suit contends Monterey Mushrooms intentionally pumped toxic wastewater — created by the use of used horse stable hay and poultry manure in the company’s production process — from its holding ponds into waterways in order to dispose of the waste without incurring any cost. In addition, contaminated stormwater from compost processing areas was allowed to flow into waterways, the suit alleges.
“Businesses should never make illegal and dangerous trade-offs between pollution and profit,” District Attorney Jeff Rosen said after his office filed the complaint alleging dozens of unfair business practices and violations of California Fish and Wildlife regulations. “We will vigilantly protect the health of our county’s waterways.”
The alleged violations were investigated by the California Department of Fisheries and Wildlife between January 2016 and April 2017. The Department said it estimated that Monterey Mushrooms had pumped 700,000 gallons of wastewater into Fisher Creek.
In response to the allegations, Monterey Mushrooms issued a statement in which they said the pollution resulted from winter storms of late 2016 and early 2017.
"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," said Bruce Knobeloch, vice president of marketing and product development at Monterey Mushrooms, in the statement. "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."