A sign at Mule Creek State Prison warns of contamination.

On May 26, 2020 at 6:44 a.m., the main sewage line at Mule Creek State Prison (MCSP) broke at the beam, resulting in the release of approximately 12,000 gallons of sewage into Mule Creek, according to the official Governor’s Office of Emergency Services Hazardous Materials Spill Report filed by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). The responsible party, CDCR, will be handling the cleanup.

Since 2006 there have been more than 60 industrial waste spills – 18,691,865 gallons –containing Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and Semivolatile Compounds (SVOCs) into Mule Creek, violating direct cease and desist orders from the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB).

In April of 2018, a single domestic well, monitoring well, surface water sampling report showed Fecal Coliform, E. Coli (Escherichia coli), Benzoic Acid (food additive), Bis(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (used as a plasticizer in PVC pipe, household items and IV tubing), tetrachloroethylene (cancer causing chemical), among numerous other contaminants. The eight additional single domestic well, monitoring well and surface water sampling tests that were to be performed never occurred.

On May 15, 2020, Amador County Counsel sent a 60-day notice of its intention to sue CDCR with regards to violations of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, commonly known as the Clean Water Act (CWA). The county alleges that CDCR is engaging in ongoing violations of the CWA by discharging pollutants from MCSP into Mule Creek, without a permit, as required by law. In October of 2019, SHN Engineers and Geologists submitted a 16,000- plus page report outlining hundreds of breaks, defect, flaws and faults with MCSP’s domestic, prison industry and storm water sewer systems. RWQCB’s staff has said that there is commingling of the three sewer systems at MCSP.

Did the defects, faults and flaws of MCSP’s sewer systems cause the main sewage line break? It is unknown at this time. The RWQCB that is to regulate the CDCR and MCSP facility have allowed regulations and their orders to be ignored . They also have imposed no fines for violations or spills.

The 1985 contract between Amador County, the City of Ione and the Amador Unified School District – the CDCR was to build a facility in a manner consistent with specific hydrology and wastewater mitigation measures, as well as laws and regulations governing wastewater and treated effluent – a fancy way of saying a treatment plant. None of the sewage treatment plants currently used are designed to handle the types of industrial waste and contaminants produced at MCSP, and the contracted facility to mitigate MCSP was not built.

New total for industrial waste, sewage, grey water mixed with storm water from December 2019 to June 19, 2020: 18,703,865 gallons.