A sign at Mule Creek State Prison warns of contamination.

On July 10, 2020, both the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) and the prosecution team of the Central Valley Regional Water Control Board (RWQCB) reached Settlement Agreement and Stipulation for Entry of Administrate Civil Liability Order R5-2020-XXXX to address the discharge of 1,119,746 gallons of contaminated stormwater discharged to surface water over 79 days between January 18, 2018 and April 10, 2019 at Mule Creek State Prison (MCSP) in Ione. Any person wishing to comment on this matter may submit written comments to the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board, 11020 Sun Center Drive #200, Rancho Cordova, CA 95670. Comments must be received no later than 5 p.m. on August 19, 2020.

The RWQCB regulates the treatment and disposal of domestic and prison industry wastewater from MCSP, as well as storm water discharges associated with industrial and construction activities.

Between December 2019 to June 19, 2020, 18,703,865 gallons of stormwater, mixed with industrial waste, sewage, and grey water containing Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and Semivolatile Compounds (SVOCs) have been dumped into Mule Creek from CDCR.

According to RWQCB’s review of CDCR’s Stormwater Collection System Investigation Report:

“Over 500 defects were found in the stormwater and sewer systems. These defects range from minor corrosion to broken/collapsed pipes, fully separated joints, deformations, compromised seals, failed previous repairs, and large holes cracks or breaks where soil is visible.”

Central Valley Water Board staff’s review of a portion of the CCTV footage shows areas where water is leaking into both systems from some defects and drain design flaws. Smoke testing of the sanitary sewer revealed eight locations where smoke escaped the system through concrete seams or grassy areas. Further, the stormwater and sewer systems were constructed in close proximity at some points, with sanitary sewer system above the stormwater system in most areas, providing an opportunity for leaking sewer pipes to gravity flow through the soil and contact the stormwater system. The Central Valley Water Board believes this is a clear conduit for indirect cross connection anywhere that both systems have nearby defects … A number of repairs are necessary to both systems.”

“Monitoring data collected by CDCR since February 2018 shows numerous detections in a wide range of waste constituents including VOCs and SVOCs, surfactants, oil, and grease, metals, inorganic, and nutrients at varying concentrations. Some of these results show concentrations of waste-type constituents at levels that would be expected in wastewater, sewage, and/or grey water. Coliform, fecal coliform, and E/ Coli are consistently very high, and often enumerated as the concentrations exceeded the upper quantification limit used by the lab.”

For the Stipulated Order, only discharges that occurred between January 18 2018 to April 10, 2019 were considered. Additionally, instead of using the store water, industrial waste, sewage and grey water totals that are millions of gallons, a 14,174 gallon daily average flow of non-storm water was used and multiplied by the 79 days of discharge as reported in the OES reports, resulting in a total of 1,119,746 gallons.

According to the RWQCB, a settlement of $2.5 million against CDCR is fair and reasonable and fulfills its enforcement objectives, that no further action is warranted concerning the violations alleged in the Stipulated Order, and is in the best interest of the public.

Should the RWQCB and CDCR agreement move forward, $1.25 million shall be paid to the State Water Pollution Cleanup Abatement Account. An additional $1.25 million will be permanently suspended on the condition that CDCR spends $1.25 million completing Enhanced Compliance Actions (ECAs). Those actions include an Irrigation Replacement and a SCCWRP Study.

Since 2006 there have been more than 60 spills of stormwater, mixed with industrial waste, sewage, and grey water containing VOCs and SVOCs.

Amador County sent a 60-day Notice of Violations and Intent to Sue Letter under the Federal Clean Water Act related to CDCR related to the issues connected to MCSP and the contamination of Mule Creek on May 15, 2020. At 60 days, county counsel confirmed Amador County will not pursue a lawsuit as long as discussions continue with CDCR.

The last spill reported by CDCR at MCSP was 12,000 gallons of sewage dumped into Mule Creek on May 26, 2020. To date, no repairs have been scheduled or completed to the stormwater, sanitary or prison industry sewer systems by CDCR at MCSP.