Bottled Water Company Pled Guilty to Storing Contaminated Water

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Bottled Water Company Pled Guilty to Storing Contaminated Water
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Source: Department of Justice

The company that produces “Crystal Geyser Natural Alpine Spring Water” pleaded guilty this morning to federal charges of illegally storing and transporting hazardous waste created from filtering arsenic out of spring water at its facility in Olancha, California.

CG Roxane, LLC pleaded guilty to one count of unlawful storage of hazardous waste and one count of unlawful transportation of hazardous material. In a plea agreement recently filed in United States District Court, CG Roxane agreed to pay a criminal fine of $5 million.

According to court documents, CG Roxane obtained water by drawing groundwater from the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada mountains that contained naturally occurring arsenic. The company used sand filters to reduce the concentration of arsenic so the water would meet federal drinking water standards. To maintain the effectiveness of the sand filters, CG Roxane back-flushed the filters with a sodium hydroxide solution, which generated thousands of gallons of arsenic-contaminated wastewater.

For approximately 15 years, CG Roxane discharged the arsenic-contaminated wastewater into a manmade pond – known as “the Arsenic Pond” – at its Olancha facility along Highway 395.

In March 2013, the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board took a sample from the Arsenic Pond and in 2014 informed CG Roxane that the sample had an arsenic concentration that was more than eight times the hazardous waste limit, creating a risk to the area’s groundwater and wildlife. The water board referred the matter to the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), which took its own samples that showed the Arsenic Pond had an arsenic concentration almost five times the federal hazardous waste limit. Subsequent sampling and testing by CG Roxane and its retained laboratory confirmed a similar arsenic concentration in the Arsenic Pond.

DTSC officials met with CG Roxane representatives in April 2015, presented a list of preliminary violations, and instructed the company to arrange for the removal of the Arsenic Pond.

In May 2015, CG Roxane hired two Los Angeles-area entities to remove the hazardous waste and transport it – which was done without the proper manifest and without identifying the wastewater as a hazardous material, according to court documents. The arsenic-contaminated wastewater was ultimately transported to a Southern California facility that was not authorized to receive or treat hazardous waste. As a result, more than 23,000 gallons of the wastewater from the Arsenic Pond allegedly was discharged into a sewer without appropriate treatment.

CG Roxane pleaded guilty to the two felony offenses before United States District Judge S. James Otero, who scheduled a sentencing hearing for February 24.

The two companies hired to transport and treat the wastewater – United Pumping Services, Inc. and United Storm Water, Inc., both located in the City of Industry – were charged along with CG Roxane in this case in 2018. Both of those companies are scheduled to go on trial on April 21. If convicted, each company would face a statutory maximum fine of $8 million.

An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

The investigation in this case focused on alleged violations involving the handling, storage and transportation of CG Roxane’s wastewater, not the safety or quality of CG Roxane’s bottled water.

The investigation in this matter is being conducted by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Criminal Investigations Division and the United States Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General. These federal agencies received assistance from the California Department of Toxic Substances Control.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Dennis Mitchell, Heather C. Gorman and Michael G. Freedman of the Environmental and Community Safety Crimes Section.

The United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California also assisted in the investigation.

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BlueHorseshoe Jan 14, 2020 07:32 AM
Bottled Water Company Pled Guilty to Storing Contaminated Water

This is an interesting situation. Everybody has an opinion without really knowing what actually happened. Over the years, ive found my dog really prefers Fiji water, bottled and shipped from the island itself. She goes through about a case a week of the spring fed greatness.

pxn Jan 13, 2020 11:18 PM
Bottled Water Company Pled Guilty to Storing Contaminated Water

RO water tastes good. A daily multivitamin will keep you full of essential minerals. My RO system is under the kitchen sink and it's tap is on top of the sink -- the personal RO water does not go though plumbing pipes in the house where leaching could occur. Less expensive than buying bottled water and generating plastic or glass waste.

Bene Jan 12, 2020 03:21 PM
Bottled Water Company Pled Guilty to Storing Contaminated Water

Drinking R.O. water is not good. Water devoid of minerals becomes "aggressive" and "eats" into water pipes and also leaches minerals out of your body if you drink it without adding back anything. That is why the desalination plant adds back some "lime crap" (a cheap form of calcium) --so that the aggressive soft R.O. water they produce does not erode city (and home) pipes. Of course they don't add back more expensive minerals like magnesium and the desal water is very poor quality and carries extra bacteria and impurities that need treatment so the disinfectant levels in it are sometimes so high the water stinks of chemicals. Obviously you can't drink that. Cachuma water and ground water in Santa Barbara can also have problems. Brita filters (read the disclaimer) only improve the TASTE of water--they don't actually filter out enough chloramine, etc. to do you any good, and the membrane isn't small enough to help at all with bacterial etc. contaminants. Brita maybe tastes better and makes you feel safer, but it doesnt do much. Considering all these things, one is wise to drink bottled water. You just have to find the right kind. To avoid plastic, glass bottles are better for the environment and for your health. Reputable long-time brands like Acqua Panna and Mountain Spring water (in glass) are among the best.

a-1580204440 Jan 12, 2020 12:09 PM
Bottled Water Company Pled Guilty to Storing Contaminated Water

It's amazing theses antiquated fines are so low that it's a better financial decision to break the law and not get caught. If you do get cought, the fine is less than 5% of the overall cost it would have been to remove the water honestly. The public relations nightmare avoided by a stellar marketing campaign spinning the company positive. Moral dillema? Nobody is held responsible. No jail time consequence. No teeth in old laws that are purposely left bland on the books. This is in no way specific to this case or industry, it's systematic across all industries. It is neither political. But it is certainly anchored in greed, acceptance, tolerance and ignorance. And the worst thing here? A company tapped undrinkable water, removed enough arsenic to make it federally lgal, bottled it and in snake oil fashoon, labeled it as Crystal Springs.

RHS Jan 12, 2020 10:22 AM
Bottled Water Company Pled Guilty to Storing Contaminated Water

A question: What happens to the Brita filters when they are finished? What happens to the back flushed reverse osmosis residue? Isn't this what is happening to the residue from the treated water at the plants? (Either back into the stream or into some sort of landfill.) If so, why are we suggesting such a process rather than producing drinkable and safe water from our taps? Of course, either reverse osmosis or Brita is a heck of a lot better than buying disposable plastic bottles of water no matter what, especially when they are being transported thousands of miles to sale to us.

RHS Jan 13, 2020 01:44 PM
Bottled Water Company Pled Guilty to Storing Contaminated Water

Pstarsr. Sort of understand your point I guess. Used to have a carbon filter on one tap in my home that provided water for coffee and such. Replaced it when I sort of felt it was not effective. No problems per se. But not real cheap. Buying 40 cent a gallon water at the machines is also not too expensive considering the "convenience" of having a large bottle (like the old Sparklets or Arrowhead home delivery days) on hand. I agree it is vulgar and destructive to continue to buy Fiji water and such things. I cannot understand how people ignore this evil thing.

pstarSR Jan 13, 2020 10:55 AM
Bottled Water Company Pled Guilty to Storing Contaminated Water

To try and answer, britas are tossed sadly. Its only charcoal though a natural element. The plastic container sadly is trash and will cause issues. No one “backflushes” an RO system as the waste dumped back down the pipes is the “waste” its perpetually dumping the residues into the sewers. Out tap water is treated and safe to drink, according to “them” some people want more filtering ( and a charcoal filter is an option ) for removing more contaminents people dont like. Sorry to say “lesser of two evils” but in the end the only way to be less wasteful is to drink straight from the tap since we already pay for treatment. I personally ( and everyone has a choice) choose to filter myself, rather than letting someone else do it and charge for it. But choosing an option that impacts less is always good. Sadly what impacts less is always up for debate. I laugh because a water “vending” machine at the cvs near my house ( crystal geiser i think ) is feed from a tap next to the machine. Its tap water filtered and people pay for it.

pstarSR Jan 13, 2020 10:42 AM
Bottled Water Company Pled Guilty to Storing Contaminated Water

You are aware only you can tract when something is “done” each brita filter comes with a time chart to tell you went to change. Charcoal is not recyclable? So its natural. Only the plastic holder is not. But thats only becuase we are stupid and dont recycle all the plastic we were told was being recycled. Wasting drinking water is far worse than a charcoal filter. Wasting 3-4x the water so you can drink is way worse than a charcoal filter. Again I will say, each option has issues. And only you control how “clean” your systems are.

a-1580204440 Jan 12, 2020 11:53 AM
Bottled Water Company Pled Guilty to Storing Contaminated Water

Brita pitchers are about $30 and filters are a constant expense from then on. The cost of the wasted water from reverse osmosis is almost immeasurably small (less than a penny a gallon). The idea that we are helping the world by purchasing disposable "purification" stuff which is not recyclable is the stuff of advertising baloney. In addition one has no idea when the Brita filter is no longer working nor if it contains accumulated or home grown bacteria. Why would we think such a device is healthy?

a-1580204440 Jan 12, 2020 08:48 AM
Bottled Water Company Pled Guilty to Storing Contaminated Water

A reverse osmosis system wastes about 4 gallons of water per gallon made. If you use 3 gallons a day for drinking, cooking and internal consumption, that means you will waste about 12 gallons, making a reverse osmosis system about 25% effecient! That's an OK trade off if you're using ocean water, but it seems wasteful with Cachuma water.

a-1580204440 Jan 11, 2020 06:39 PM
Bottled Water Company Pled Guilty to Storing Contaminated Water

"As a result, more than 23,000 gallons of the wastewater from the Arsenic Pond allegedly was discharged into a sewer without appropriate treatment." Where did this arsenic-laden sewer water end up is what I'd like to know.

Tee Gee Jan 11, 2020 06:23 PM
Bottled Water Company Pled Guilty to Storing Contaminated Water

5491- you are so over the top intelligent! Why, I've read your comment regarding "correlation and causation" and I don't understand a word of what message you are trying to convey! Man, I should have continued my studies and gotten that darn masters! But I compliment you on your obvious stellar intelligence, and hope that someday you will be able to communicate "downhill" so that simple folk like myself can comprehend.

jqb Jan 12, 2020 09:09 AM
Bottled Water Company Pled Guilty to Storing Contaminated Water

" just because two things happen at the same time, it doesn’t mean that one caused the other" -- no, that describes a cum hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. Correlated does not mean "at the same time", it means that there's a statistical relationship ... if you plot graphs of two phenomena over time, they are similarly shaped.

yacht rocked Jan 11, 2020 05:34 PM
Bottled Water Company Pled Guilty to Storing Contaminated Water

...and how many billions of plastic bottles were used to bottle water no better than what comes out of your tap? And how much fuel was used to all the trucks used to distribute it? Well, I guess it's better than importing water from Fiji. Sigh.

a-1580204440 Jan 11, 2020 01:17 PM
Bottled Water Company Pled Guilty to Storing Contaminated Water

I got the runs everytime I drank that water as soon as I figured out where the illness was coming from I stopped never drank that water again I don't care about what was in or out I got sick it was that water that made me sick no more...I did not say anything about arsenic you did.

a-1580204440 Jan 11, 2020 01:58 PM
Bottled Water Company Pled Guilty to Storing Contaminated Water

The complementary idea that "correlation implies causation" is an example of a questionable-cause logical fallacy, in which two events occurring together are taken to have established a cause-and-effect relationship.

a-1580204440 Jan 11, 2020 12:58 PM
Bottled Water Company Pled Guilty to Storing Contaminated Water

The arsenic wasn't in the water, Roger unless you were getting a killer "deal" on bottles of the stuff before the water passed through the sand filter system! It must have been something else that was getting you sick. ;-)

jqb Jan 12, 2020 10:31 AM
Bottled Water Company Pled Guilty to Storing Contaminated Water

"The arsenic wasn't in the water" -- it was from the same source as that water, so unless the filtering was perfect--and of course it is not, as is clear from the fact that they have to keep backflushing it--some of the arsenic was in the water. Whether or not that's what made Roger sick (probably not), bottled water is a scam.

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