A sign near Mule Creek State Prison proclaims, “Biohazard,” noting the alleged water contamination and lack of action to address it.


Mule Creek continues to be a hotbed of issues for the City of Ione as the admitted contamination from an unknown source coming from Mule Creek State Prison (MCSP) continues after a year without findings, fines, or answers. Both the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) and the Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB) have refused to comment.

While CDCR has allegedly spent millions reviewing their three sewer systems — domestic sewer, prison industry sewer and the storm drain sewer — they have yet to review the cast iron pipes under any of the buildings that contractors working on the site, as well as employees who spoke to the Ledger Dispatch on the condition of anonymity, have said are the source of the issue of contamination. Those sources say the contaminants are a direct result of the iron pipes being compromised, corroded and literally eaten away by chemicals from prison industries.

“I’ve heard they’ve looked and have video of the pipes, then I’ve heard they haven’t,” said Stacy Rhoades, Ione City Council. “I’ve heard they’ve looked at all the pipes outside the area, or the area leading up to the buildings, but not under the buildings at MCSP where they have cast iron pipes, the source many believe to be the case of the contamination. I haven’t had, and I don’t know of anyone at the City of Ione that has received an update or report on findings or anything accomplished by CDCR or the RWQCB on the issue.”

“Not one word about oil, feces, caffeine — you name it, it’s in the water at Mule Creek at one time or another,” said property owner, Jim Scully. “The City of Ione and Amador County government have done absolutely nothing, despite contracts and agreements with CDCR. It’s a joke, except it’s polluting and contaminating our home.”

“If this was any other business, or you or me,” said Rhodes, “you’d be fined…fined heavily, or more than likely in jail.”

With more than a year of undocumented contamination and local government entities unwilling to do anything but wait for one state agency, the RWQCB, to look into another state agency, the CDCR, it appears answers aren’t coming anytime soon. Neither are findings. Neither are fines. Nothing but silence.

In an unrelated story, MCSP Warden Joe Lizarraga has been on paid administrative leave since late January when he was walked off the property by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Both the FBI and the CDCR have refused to comment on the investigation or even what is being investigated.

“They walked him off the property and seized all his computers,” said Scully. “If you are wondering if the CDCR could be crooked or covering up the contamination and failure of their sewer systems, I’d ask you to think about that. The FBI came and got the CDCR’s lead person. How deep, and how far does the corruption and coverups go? Not only for what the FBI is looking into, but this contamination and broken system. It’s criminal.”

To date, no findings have come from CDCR or the RWQCB on the unknown contamination source. No testing or review has been done on the cast iron pipes under MCSP. To date, no information into the investigation of the Warden from CDCR or the FBI. Just silence.