Santa Clara County

Watsonville Mushroom Grower Sued Over Toxic Waste in Waterways

Santa Clara County prosecutors this week filed a $67 million lawsuit against a Watsonville mushroom grower, accusing it of dumping toxic wastewater into Bay Area waterways.

A California Department of Fish and Wildlife investigation found Monterey Mushrooms Inc. had intentionally dumped up to 700,000 gallons of wastewater at its Morgan Hill facility in a 48-hour period between Jan. 7 and Jan. 8, 2017, prosecutors said.

The waste went into overflow pipes, culverts and hoses that flowed into Fisher Creek, which leads to Coyote Creek and the San Francisco Bay.

On other occasions, water samples allegedly had as much as 90 milligrams per liter of ammonia nitrogen, with 17 milligrams per liter defined as "acute toxicity" by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

"Businesses should never make illegal and dangerous trade-offs between pollution and profit," Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen said in a statement. "We will vigilantly protect the health of our county's waterways."

Monterey Mushroom Inc. said on Thursday it was "shocked and disappointed" by the lawsuit, adding that the storm water release was a result of "catastrophic" winter storms in late 2016 and early 2017.

Rain flooded Coyote Creek and inundated the Morgan Hill mushroom facility, the company said, pushing the location to invest in millions of dollars of extra storm water storage and separation technology.

"Monterey Mushrooms has a long history being a responsible member of the community and is committed to the highest standards of environmental compliance," company officials said.

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