MCSP wells

Yellow pins denote wells tested near Mule Creek State Prison in 2018 that have shown contamination.

“The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) is using storms to dump a mixture of industrial waste, sewage, gray water, and stormwater containing Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and Semivolatile Organic Compounds (SVOCs) into Mule Creek, violating direct orders to cease and desist from the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB) that regulates the CDCR and the Mule Creek State Prison (MCSP) facility,” said David Anderson. “The original contracted sewage treatment plant that CDCR was to build to mitigate and handle their prison industries waste, and sewer systems from MCSP was never built, despite courts upholding the contracts legitimacy twice, the MCSP sewer systems are commingling due to failures, and local city and county governments say their hands are tied. This is criminal! Criminal!”

Anderson, who worked with a crew building a culvert that he now realizes was to cover-up the illegal dumping of industrial waste and sewage constantly flowing from beneath MCSP before falling seriously ill from exposure to the contaminants and a “dirt” pile that ended up being sewage sludge filled with Escherichia coli (E. coli), is frustrated, angry, and dumbfounded.

The CDCR reported to the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services a Hazardous Materials Spill Report that they opened their slide gates on Saturday, April 4 through Tuesday, April 7, violating RWQCB cease and desist orders dating back to January 2018, dumping an additional 3,992,170 gallons of industrial waste, sewage, gray water and stormwater into Mule Creek. Since December of 2019 a total of 17,434,876 gallons have been dumped illegally into Mule Creek.

As mentioned in a previous article on the ongoing investigation into MCSP the CDCR and its failing sewer systems, the RWQCB did turn over well monitoring reports in April of 2018, oddly enough to Amador Public Health. We say oddly enough, as the Amador County Board of Supervisors have clearly stated that the RWQCB is the regulatory arm for CDCR and MCSP, including District 2 Supervisor Richard Forster who said in a recent meeting, “Our hands are tied.”

In going over the results of the domestic well, monitoring well, surface water sampling completed, Mike Israel from Amador County Public Health supplied the following findings on April 13, 2020 (two years later):

“One of the wells routinely has bacteria and nitrate above the safe drinking water limit. Owners are aware of this and do not consume the water. Another well routinely tests positive for bacteria and is not connected to a structure or used for consumption. Owners are aware of the status. One well tested high for lead ... the source of the lead is at the faucet at the well head.

“Trace amounts of acetone were detected in several wells. Acetone is a relatively common solvent. Benzoic acid was also detected in several wells and also in a quality control blank which should have been a non-detect. One of the uses of benzoic acid is a food additive. There are no safe drinking water limits established for these chemicals.

“Bis(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate was also encountered in some wells, including one result above the public drinking water MCL. This chemical is used as a plasticizer in PVC pipe, household items and IV tubing, and among other things.

“Other constituents were detected in the samples from the stormwater system and the onsite monitoring well, none of which are for human consumption.”

Now if all this doesn’t sound contaminated, or dirty enough, Stacy Rhoades, Vice Mayor of Ione, shared some more information regarding the RWQCB’s report on wells from April of 2018.

“I know at least some of the wells were chlorinated, bleached and ‘Cloroxed’ before testing. This is a common practice in some cases and this is done to make a base line,” said Rhoades. “I would have taken a straight raw sample at first, then do a ‘well cleaning’ for a base line test. It’s always good to know what has been going on for years in a water source, as opposed to what’s been going on for a couple weeks or a couple months. Additionally, it is my understanding several wells are no longer being tested. I would like to see testing of those wells, along with historic drinking wells, included and tested again.”

Were the wells cleaned to make a base line, or to skew the testing results? Further testing has not been provided and we may never know. We know contamination has occurred, but no one knows to what extent.

With what appears to be no end in sight for the continued dumping and contamination of Mule Creek, one thing is certain … with the next rainfall those slide gates will open, and the millions of gallons of waste will continue to grow. And if you have property and a well anywhere near Mule Creek, there is a plume of contamination – so, don’t drink the water.