mule creek

In today’s edition of the Ledger Dispatch, you’ll see the latest report on the contamination of Mule Creek from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) from Mule Creek State Prison (MCSP). The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board is clearly not representing the best interest of the City of Ione or Amador County. Similarly, the Ione City Council and the Amador County Board of Supervisors have done nothing with regards to the widespread and ongoing contamination of Mule Creek. Amador County Public Health – nope. I believe the quote that caught my attention from our Board of Supervisors was, “Our hands are tied.”

All this while Volatile Organic Compounds and Semivolatile Organic Compounds, industrial waste, sewage and other contaminants stream from MCSP and flow into Mule Creek. 7,829,474 gallons in the past two months.

At the state level, while I haven’t spoken directly to California Governor Gavin Newsom, clearly the two state agencies, CDCR and the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board, are going to continue business as usual and will not address breaking the laws of California and the United States. And as these are both state agencies under his authority, I assume Governor Newsom is either unaware of the problem or is complicit in allowing it to continue.

I know a few of us have spoken to our Federal representatives and sent complaints to the Federal Environmental Protection Agency. So far, nothing has been accomplished.

While all of this can be frustrating, I strongly encourage the residents of Amador County to continue reaching out to local, state and federal agencies. Most importantly, the federal agencies as, again, the City of Ione, Amador County, and the State of California and their agencies refuse to protect their own constituents.

The email response I received from the Amador County Public Health Officer Michael Israel, for example, was as follows:

“Unfortunately, the county has very few viable options available to independently compel a resolution to the wastewater contamination issues related to the prison, and we are unable to force the Water Board to take action. Therefore, the county’s approach has been to assist state regulatory staff however possible and to encourage appropriate and timely enforcement actions by the state. The Board has directed staff to continue with efforts to encourage appropriate enforcement by the Water Board, and staff is following that direction. With the assistance of Dana Jorgensen, field representative for State Senator Borgeas, a conference call between the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board staff and the County staff and officials is currently being scheduled to discuss the prison.” 

Really? Nearly 8 million gallons of contaminants, industrial waste known to have VOCs and SVOCs dumped into Mule Creek inside of two months, not to mention years of contamination violating state and federal laws, and we can’t do anything? In my opinion, none of you have even tried. It stinks almost as much as the river you have contaminated.

And I get it, some of these folks are going to say I am blowing the issue out of proportion. In fact, some of the state agencies have said I am a liar, that the contamination isn’t a big issue, or that it isn’t even from MCSP. I think the best way to fix that is to gather as group down by Mule Creek. Each of you can take a drink from the river. If you can’t make it, I’ll be more than happy to fill Mason jars and bring them to your meeting.

In fact, I’d encourage the public to send some to each of you. Mason jars of Mule Creek “water” for the City of Ione, the Amador Board of Supervisors, the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board, and our state and federal elected officials. Don’t want to drink it? How about just washing with it? Or swim in it? Maybe a nice swim party? You’ve told us it’s just river water, after all.

Which stinks worst, the river you have polluted or the complete lack of following Clean Water Act state and federal laws. Shame on all of you.

And, I get it, you’d like me to drink a big, tall, cold, glass of – shut the hell up. But, that’s not going to happen. I stand by the stories. I’m going to continue to follow and document the contamination. I’m going to stand by the homeowners and landowners along the river you have damaged. I am going to fight for the citizens of Ione and Amador County. The way you should be fighting for us. And this issue – it will get fixed. The only thing worse than the contamination in Mule Creek is your complete lack of respect for the citizens and turning a blind eye. Which by the way, is one of the side effects a worker putting in a trench to cover the flow of contamination from MCSP experienced.

Drink up!

Jack Mitchell is the Publisher of the Ledger Dispatch. Email him at