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U.S. EPA orders Yuba City company to correct federal Clean Water Act violations

Release Date: 4/6/2005
Contact Information: Laura Gentile ,415-947-4227

SAN FRANCISCO -- Last week the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ordered Sunsweet Growers of Yuba City, Calif. to immediately correct wastewater treatment violations at its processing facility.

The EPA alleges that Sunsweet Growers, located at 901 N. Walton Ave., failed to correctly treat its wastewater before sending it to the local sewage treatment system.

The city must comply with the requirements in the EPA's order in several stages over the next two years, or face fines of up to $32,500 per day.

"Discharges of wastewater from industrial facilities can pose a serious threat to the integrity of sewer pipes and could cause local wastewater treatment plants to malfunction," said Alexis Strauss, the director of the EPA's water division in San Francisco. "We expect Sunsweet to comply with this order to protect Yuba City’s valuable treatment plant and the Feather River ecosystem."

The EPA determined that the company's wastewater has consistently exceeded local permit limits for pH, which indicates the amount of acidity in the wastewater. The EPA’s regulations require the company to treat the wastewater before discharging it to Yuba city’s treatment plant to prevent any corrosion or impairment of the sewer system.

The EPA’s order requires Sunsweet to outline how it will comply with local limits for pH and other pollutants. The company is also required to extensively monitor its wastewater and submit results to the EPA. The EPA discovered the violations based on information submitted by the company, at the agency’s request. Last July, the EPA had ordered Yuba City to make improvements to its pretreatment program.

Sunsweet makes dried fruit and fruit juices, which generates wastewater containing high concentrations of food residue and other organics. The wastewater is treated at the Yuba City treatment plant and discharged into the Feather River.

The EPA’s pretreatment regulations require that industries treat chemicals and other contaminants in their wastewater before sending it to the local sewage treatment system. Local sewers can become corroded if highly acidic wastewater is sent through these systems. Local agencies must regulate industrial facilities by issuing permits, conducting inspections, sampling wastewater and reviewing each facility's monitoring data.

The EPA's order to Sunsweet and general information on EPA's pretreatment program are available on EPA's Web site at:http://www.epa.gov/region09/water/pretreatment/