SPECIAL REPORT - california department of corrections
Mule Creek Signs of the Times—Part four of the ongoing investigation of alleged contamination of the Federal Waterways by Mule Creek State Prison (MCSP), the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) and the California Prison System
Mule Creek Prison has illegally discharged sewage and contaminated waste water into Mule Creek for over 20 years! Do not allow your children or pets to contact the water due to health issues experienced by those who did. (File CW-241842) Regional Water 916-464-4676. Signed by Citizens for Clean Groundwater.
In September of 2006, Senator Dave Cox spoke out about the lack of mitigation measures for the proposed prison expansions, including MCSP. Five bills had been passed by the Senate on August 30, 2016 aimed at addressing statewide overcrowding issues in the prison system. Cox opposed three of the five bills and amendments. He attempted to add to four of the bills which were not passed by the Senate. Cox called the package of bills “a watered down, half cooked proposal.”
“Our concern with respect to the addition of beds at Ione was looking at the material that has been presented. I couldn’t find anything that had to do with external mitigation. When you think about the requirements that we make of industry, businesses, or developments when they come into a community — none of that has been made relative to the expansion of MCSP,” said Cox.
Cox’s amendments were an attempt to ensure that external mitigation funding was to be provided to local communities impacted by proposed prison expansion. One of the failed amendments in 2006 stated: “The state and CDCR shall mitigate local impacts of any project provided for in this act.
Impacts for which mitigation shall be provided include, but are not limited to impacts in the area of water services, wastewater treatment, storage and disposal, transportation, health care services, education, fire protection and law enforcement.”
“Ione has taken the position and Amador County has taken the position ‘we don’t want any expansion because you didn’t keep your word to us to begin with,’” said Cox. “What I am looking for is the external mitigation that takes care of that which is over 1,700 beds if we can’t get the 400-bed increase stopped.
In the original contract in September of 1985, the CDCR, Amador County, the City of Ione, and the Amador County Unified School District agreed to build a 1,200 bed prison (augmented to a 1,700-bed prison) with certain terms and conditions. In that contract: “The Department (CDCR) shall timely carry out and implement completely all of the conditions and mitigation measures in the Amended Statement of Findings attached hereto and by this reference included in full herein. The Department’s (CDCR’s) location of a sewage treatment plant on the five acres of land north or east of the prison as set forth in subparagraph 4.a of the Amended Statement of Findings. The prison will have the following sewage treatment and disposal systems: The CDCR will construct a new sewage treatment plant capable of treating effluent to secondary and tertiary levels of treatment. It will be constructed on-site on 5 acres of land near Collings Road and will be capable of treating 0.76 millions of gallons per day. Effluent treated to a level suitable for creek discharge will be piped underground across State-owned land to Sutter Creek during the rainy season when the creek has a sufficient level of flow and the soil is relatively saturated.”
The sewage treatment plant was never built. Mitigation measures and conditions were never met, and still have not been met to date. That is before looking into the alleged catastrophic failure of MCSP’s sewer system and cross connections of the storm water drain system, as has been covered in this investigative series by the Ledger Dispatch.
Which brings us to the signs: BIOHAZARD — Mule Creek Prison has illegally discharged sewage and contaminated waste water into Mule Creek for over 20 years! Do not allow your children or pets to come into contact with the water due to health issues experienced by those who did. (File CW-241842) Regional Water 916-464-4676. Signed by Citizens for Clean Groundwater.
“Every property owner adjacent to MCSP has seen the contamination and the result of dumping industrial and domestic sewage into Mule Creek,” said Jim Scully, a retired Sacramento City Police Officer who owns property along Mule Creek. “I tested the water in Mule Creek. The results tested positive for coliforms and organics known to be hazardous to human and environmental health. It also tested positive for caffeine.”
These test results were thrown out, as they were not conducted by a disinterested third party.
“I asked the Regional Water Quality Control Board to conduct their own tests, and at the time they said it was up to the CDCR. They basically dismissed it, buried it and failed to complete a full investigation,” said Scully. “This has been going on for twenty years and no one is doing anything about the contamination of soil as well as the contamination of Federal Waterways.”
That alleged contamination, as well as a new subdivision being built at Castle Oaks Golf Course that backs up to Mule Creek worries Scully. In fact, it terrifies him.
“If kids or pets come in contact with that water in Mule Creek,” said Scully. “There is no telling how sick they might get. If new home owners think the smell at certain times of the year is bad, wait until one of their pets, or God forbid, one of their children, get into that river. It prompted the Citizens for Clean Groundwater to post signs in an effort to make sure they know the danger.”
Incoming Ione City Council Member, Stacy Rhoades shares that concern.
“I have a history with wastewater issues in Ione, have toured and seen the inner-workings of MCSP,” said Rhoades. “Taking away alleged contamination for just a second. The day they flipped the switch for MCSP, it was known there were major capacity issues and the system was flawed — broken may be a better word. Ione’s Wastewater Treatment Plant is hopelessly overloaded. With new subdivisions, as well as Cal Fire’s training facility expansion — it’s going to be a big problem. As for alleged contamination at MCSP, what is perhaps the most shocking is that not a single agency in the state is willing to investigate or do anything. I am of the opinion, the only way the contamination issues will get resolved is by having the Federal government intervene. 20 years has gone by, and nothing is being done. We have on record, slide gates being opened when they aren’t supposed to, a history of sewage spills into Mule Creek, and now four workers digging a culvert with mysterious illnesses and documentation of water or sewage intrusion from an unknown source that flows consistently. When does the state investigate? Where are the answers?”
As for the signs along Mule Creek.
“I hope it warns people,” said Scully. “We’ve done all we can, but we need a full investigation.”
“It’s a cyclical problem over years,” said Rhoades. “There’s some newspaper articles, some discussion, and then right back to creating a larger problem. We need to break the cycle, get the sewage treatment plant we were promised, and investigate and address the alleged contamination and fix it. It’s time to quit passing this problem on to the next group of leaders and actually do something to make sure we have a safe and beautiful place for all of us to share.”
As part of our ongoing investigation into the allegations Anderson has made regarding MCSP, the Ledger Dispatch, has hired a firm to test the water around MCSP in the interest in getting tests that use EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) methodology, that are performed by an ELAP (Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program) within the state of California. The tests include a chain of custody, including how samples were preserved. Those test results will include not only a look at human biomarkers, but pharmaceuticals, as well as a full breakdown of Volatile Organic Compound’s and Semivolatile Organic Compound’s. It will be part of our ongoing published investigation looking into the alleged contamination of Mule Creek by CDCR, MCSP, and the California State Corrections Prison System.
BIOHAZARD — Mule Creek Prison has illegally discharged sewage and contaminated waste water into Mule Creek for over 20 years! Do not allow your children or pets to come into contact with the water due to health issues experienced by those who did. (File CW-241842) Regional Water 916-464-4676. Signed by Citizens for Clean Groundwater.
Ione police department activity report
Ione PD releases their ACTIVITY REPORT and arrest log for the week ending january 19th
SPECIAL REPORT - california department of corrections
CDCR Seeks Redesignation for Mule Creek State Prison - Some Say It Stinks
On Tuesday, January 8th, the Amador County Board of Supervisors joined the investigation of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), Mule Creek State Prison (MCSP) and the contamination of Mule Creek. The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB) verified earlier this month that MCSP has been contaminating Mule Creek for at least this past year, from an unknown source most likely under the prison itself. While benzoic acid, a food additive and acetone is showing up in testing, according to Mike Israel, Amador County Director of Environmental Health, they are below levels that would concern public health.
“Our main concern is consumption,” said Israel. “The water well samples are not at levels of contamination that our office can make a health base standard. CDCR has not followed through on their sampling program and they have stalled on their exploration of sources of contamination.”
Gregor Larabee, Chief Regulatory Compliance for CDCR said, “We have spent over $2 million to date in conducting a comprehensive site wide investigation of the storm water collection system at MCSP. Nothing has shown a cross connection between sanitary sewer and storm water at the institution.”
Andrew Altevogt, Assistant Executive Officer of the RWQCB said, “With regards to investigating the pipes at MCSP preliminary work has been done including camera tests and smoke tests. The initial tests were inconclusive.”
Of note, no tests under the MCSP buildings have been completed to date. No tests for pharmaceuticals have ever been done. Caffeine was found in Mule Creek when a resident, Jim Scully tested the water in 2006 — but those tests were thrown out as they weren’t completed by a disinterested third party. The allegations are that somewhere under the prison itself, between the three sewer systems (the sanitary sewer system, the stormwater system, and the industrial sewage system), cross connection is occurring. The problem of cross connection
is likely due to caustic chemicals being dumped down the industrial sewage system that ate the cast iron pipes. Also, CDCR was to build a tertiary treatment plant as was in the original contract for MCSP signed on September 9th, 1985. That plant was never built in a contract that is valid to this day.
When CDCR was asked when additional tests would occur, if it would include investigating all three sewer systems under the prison, who would conduct those tests and when those tests would be made public, CDCR responded: “For now, we have nothing new to announce.”
An interesting statement, as the next day, the CDCR requested the RWQCB to make a consideration of a resolution designating MCSP as a Regulated Small Municipal Separate Storm Water Sewer System Subject to State Water Board Order No. 2013-000140DWQ, as Amended, National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permit No. CA S000004. It is proposed for consideration at the February 7th - 8th, 2019, RWQCB meeting held at 8:30 a.m. at the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board Room, 11020 Sun Center Drive, #200, Rancho Cordova.
“MCSP’s stormwater discharges to Mule Creek are only governed under a stormwater non-exposure certification associated with the indoor operations of that the PIA conducts on site. The Municipal Separate Storm Sewer (MS4) Permit is the appropriate permit for the site, because of the stormwater discharges,” said Altevogt. “Coverage under the MS4 Permit will give the RWQCB greater ability to enforce water quality standards in Mule Creek. In the case of MCSP, we have not seen trash, as defined in the permit, as being a big issue in their discharges. That said, CDCR will be required to meet all of the trash provisions of the permit. Additionally, under the permit MCSP will only be allowed to discharge water that meets the requirements of our Basin Plan and the Federal Clean Water Act. The statewide MS4 permit requires monitoring of the outflow(s) from the facility, but not the creek itself. The RWQCB has other mechanisms through which it can require monitoring of the creek.”
David Anderson, one of the four workers that became ill from what he believes was either from contaminated water or soil (really sludge) from a borrow pile while building a culvert that started our investigation says otherwise.
“This stinks almost as bad as the sewage and contamination flowing non-stop from MCSP,” said Anderson. “The resolution states — ‘based on the potential of a Small MS4’s discharges to result in exceedances of water quality standards, including impairment of designated uses, or other significant water quality impacts, including habitat and biological impacts.’ They literally are changing the designation on a site, MCSP, where there is confirmed contamination, from an unknown source, unknown flows and volume, and covering it up. Greater exceedances. I am outraged. I am shocked. This is a coverup and in my opinion criminal. Monitoring is great and all, but where is the enforcement? The RWQCB has demonstrated an abysmal lack of enforcement. The RWQCB never responded to the final CDCR report. In that report, CDCR claimed all the contamination was bird poop. Unbelievable. Given the flexibility of a MS4 designation, given their past performance, and the fact CDCR, the contaminator, is the only one requesting it — it is a set up. The smell is no longer just sewage and contaminants, it is collusion, conflict of interest and conspiracy between two state agencies.”
MCSP was fined $50,000 in 2006. As for the year long contaminated stormwater found in January 2018 continuing to present, opening the slide gates at MCSP despite a cease and desist order to CDCR, among other violations going against RWQCB’s direct orders — no fines.
Persons wishing to comment on the resolution designating MCSP as a Regulated Small Municipal Separate Storm Water Sewer System must submit their comments in writing to the Central Valley Water Board no later than 5 p.m. on January 25th, 2019. The request must explain the basis for status as a designated party and in particular how the person is directly affected by the discharge. Persons wishing to comment on this noticed hearing items shall submit testimony, evidence, if any, and/or comments in writing to the Central Valley Water Board, or via email to RB5S-NPDES-Comments@waterboards.ca.gov no later than 5 p.m. on January 25th, 2019. Hand/Courier Delivery of written comments: State Water Resources Control Board, Attn: Jeanine Townsend, 1001 I Street, 24th Floor, Sacramento, CA 95814. For US Mail Delivery: State Water Resources Control Board, Clerk to the Board, Attn: Jeanine Townsend, P.O. Box 100, Sacramento, CA 95812-0100. On all comment letters, please indicate clearly as follows: “Comment Letter — Amending Attachment B of the Small MS4 General Permit.” Comment letters can also be faxed to (916) 341-5620.
What about the $2 million investigation CDCR claims to have made? The Ledger Dispatch contacted a master plumber to discuss investigating the three sewer systems at MCSP.
“It’s a very logical process. Looking at the photos, it certainly appears there is water, and contamination, that should not be there. It could be that one of the sewer lines is connected to the wrong system, causing the issue. It could be pipes are broken, or catastrophic failure. We’d want access to all the systems and everywhere we can look. We follow the flow of water and can camera test all the lines. I’m guessing it would take two weeks, certainly it could be completed in four or five weeks. With a couple cameras, going eight hours a day. I’d charge $125.00 an hour. Looking at the whole system, you’d have your answer and a complete look at the entire MCSP sewer systems for $5,000 a week (Monday-Friday). A five-week investigation would total $25,000. Once we know what we are dealing with pipes can be replaced with liners and the like. Not an easy process, especially in a prison environment. But I imagine you could move folks around as you repaired different sections. Like I said, it is a logical process. It wouldn’t be easy, and if it is catastrophic, it would be hard to fix, but it certainly can be done.”
What about the original contract and that tertiary treatment plant that was to be built?
On September 9th, 1985, Amador County, the Amador County Unified School District, the City of Ione and the State of California acting through the CDCR signed a contract to build MCSP. In that contract a sewage treatment plant on five acres of land north or east of the prison was to be built on-site on five acres of land near Collings Road and would be capable of treating 0.76 millions of gallons per day. That was to be completed and operational at the time MCSP is occupied by 1,700 prisoners or two years (1987) from the date of the award of CDCR’s first construction contract, whichever occurs first. The most notable paragraph of the original agreement:
The Department of Corrections shall construct a new sewage treatment plant capable of treating effluent to secondary and tertiary levels of treatment. It shall be constructed on-site on 5 acres of land north or east of the prison and shall be capable of treating 0.76 mgd. Said treatment plant shall accept with connections at pump stations 1 and 2 as designated by the City of Ione, treat, and dispose all the raw sewage from the California Youth Authority’s Preston School of Industry (“PSI), the prison, and the California Division of Forestry’s Fire Academy (“Academy”), and thereafter PSI, the prison, and the Academy shall not require treatment of sewage at the City of Ione’s treatment plant, and thereupon any existing contract between the City of Ione and the California Youth Authority for the treatment of sewage from PSI and the Academy shall be terminated or amended by the Department (which now promises to obtain authority to so do) and shall be of no further force and effect. Said prison treatment plant shall be operational, treating the sewage from PSI, the prison, and the Academy, at the time said prison is occupied by one thousand seven hundred (1,700) prisoners or two (2) years from the date of the award of the Department’s first construction contract, whichever occurs first.”
On December 15th, 1994, the City of Ione took the CDCR to court over California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) violations. In that decision, the court found in favor of the State, however, with regards to the original MCSP contract that, “The contract is legal and valid in all respects,” and later in that same ruling the court’s states, “That the subject contract entered into between Defendant and Plaintiff along with the County of Amador and the Amador School District, dated September 9th, 1985 is valid and enforceable…”
In 2006, MCSP had 3,996 inmates and a staff of 1,000 and ran at 230 percent of design capacity. MCSP opened with a secondary Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP). The contract, still legal and valid, required CDCR build a Tertiary Treatment Plant to complete the system There is no tertiary treatment plant. The original WWTP was supposed to process 760,000 gallons per day, but is only capable of processing 740,000 gallons per day, if in good repair and operating to design capacity. In 2007, it was reported by then Warden Rich Subia the flow was closer to 900,000 or 950,000 gallons per day.
Currently, MCSP’s population is 5,395. That’s 3,968 inmates and 1,425 staff members. Amador County, the Amador County Unified School District, and the City of Ione have not pursued fulfillment of the original contract to this day.
The Ledger Dispatch is conducting independent tests of water flows outside MCSP that use EPA methodology, that are performed by ELAP within the state of California, that includes a chain of custody including how samples were preserved. Those tests will include a look at human biomarkers, pharmaceuticals, as well as a full breakdown of VOC’s and SVOC’s. Those results will be published as part of our ongoing investigation of the contamination of Mule Creek by CDCR, MCSP, and the California Prison System.
Story Clarifications: Mule Creek flows into Dry Creek not far west of the prison. Sutter Creek flows into Dry Creek downstream from the Mule Creek confluence. Dry Creek flows all the way down and through Galt (Dry Creek Golf Course is there) to its confluence with the Mokelumne south of the Cosumnes Preserve near Thornton. The Comanche Fish Hatchery on the Mokelumne is at the base of the Comanche Dam, which is upstream of the Dry Creek-Mokelumne confluence. Mokelumne does have steelhead as a listed species, but it does not contain any listed salmon species. Additionally, Sally Barron was listed as a chemist of note. She studied chemistry in college, worked as a chemist several times during her working career, but says being named a chemist of note would be an exaggeration. She has years of experience working on sewage, the industrial kind, which she states is very nasty stuff.
january housing figures show a decrease in inventory and 12-month low for listing prices
total home sales inventory down 42% in last 6-months
·The median home value in Ione is $317,800.
·Ione home values have gone up 7.8 over the past year and zilow.com predicts they will rise 9.5% in 2019.
·The median list price per square foot in Ione is $211, which is lower than the Stockton Metro average of $242.
·The median price of homes currently listed in Ione is $327,445.
Foreclosures will be a factor impacting home values in the next several years. In Ione 2.2 homes are foreclosed (per 10,000). This is greater than the Stockton Metro value of 1.3 and also greater than the national value of 1.6
Mortgage delinquency is the first step in the foreclosure process. This is when a homeowner fails to make a mortgage payment. The percent of delinquent mortgages in Ione is 0.5%, which is lower than the national value of 1.1%.
The percent of Ione homeowners underwater on their mortgage is 6.21%, which is lower than Stockton Metro at 8.7%.
IONE city council MEETING
january 1st meeting
The regularly scheduled meeting of the City of Ione City Council, scheduled for Tuesday, January 1st, was cancelled.
City Manager Jon Hanken told the Council at their December 18th meeting that the meeting fell on a federal holiday, and as such would be cancelled.
He suggested that as January contained 5 Tuesdays the Council might consider pushing back each City Council and Commission meeting by one week.
The next scheduled meeting of the City Council is set for January 15th.
SPECIAL REPORT - california department of corrections
Board of Supervisors Join Investigation of Mule Creek State Prison over sewage Contamination
Michael Israel, Amador County Director of Environmental Health stood before the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, January 8, and reviewed issues going back as far as 2006 and investigations into Mule Creek State Prison (MCSP) with regard to public health. Early in 2018 MCSP opened their slide gates, releasing stormwater and sanitary and industrial waste into Mule Creek. The Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB) sent a cease and desist order, and told MCSP to contain the stormwater and put it through their treatment plant and investigate the source of the storm water contamination.
“With every significant storm event, we are seeing from the state warning center there are sometimes several million gallons of flow that MCSP have to release because they do not have adequate storage to contain that stormwater,” said Israel. “It does appear that very clearly there are contaminants in the stormwater. The water well samples are not at levels of contamination that our office can make a health base standard. We are seeing benzoic acid, a food additive at low levels, but unusual, and acetone pretty universally. They are below levels that would concern public health. The RWQCB ordered an investigation on potential sources, and also to conduct a domestic well monitoring program. CDCR has not followed
through on their sampling program and they have stalled on their exploration of sources of contamination.”
“Isn’t the RWQCB asking MCSP to investigate kind of like asking the fox how many chickens are in the coop?” said District 2 Supervisor, Richard Forster. “If you’re going to build confidence you have to have an independent that is doing the testing.”
“Unlike the issues at the dump that has no documented off-site impacts historically and recently, in my opinion, from the potential threat to public health, I would expect the RWQCB to pursue MCSP more rigorously,” said Israel. “We have not seen a good investigation. We have not seen adequate information from CDCR or the RWQCB.”
In 2006, private citizens tested Mule Creek and caffeine was found. To date pharmaceuticals have never been tested. 2006 findings concluded Mule Creek is heavily influenced by MCSP.
“If there is a problem, there is a problem,” said District 5 Supervisor, Brian Oneto. “If not, there is not. But, there should be a robust work plan if there is a problem. Be transparent.”
Israel noted that based on findings public health concerns with incidental contact are much more remote.
“The main concern is consumption,” said Israel. “It is key to follow up, if there is something we need to track. Our first and foremost concern is consumption.”
No clustering of illnesses have been related to discharges based on the list of state mandated communicable diseases. Data supports that contaminants do not seem to be making it into the drinking water system at this time. Four workers building a culvert at MCSP claim to have gotten sick by exposure to either contaminated water they witnessed or a borrow pile that was not soil, but sludge scraped off of the MCSP spray fields. The RWQCB has gone on record that they found contaminants in the stormwater system.
“We were made aware of the issue of storm water contamination a year ago,” said Andrew Altevogt, Assistant Executive Officer of the RWQCB. “We’ve issued orders, there have been responses. We’re still in the middle of the process. Everyone agrees it is a complicated problem. We have asked CDCR to sample, and they have done that. With regards to investigating the pipes at MCSP preliminary work has been done including camera tests and smoke tests. The initial tests were inconclusive.”
“We have spent over $2 million to date in conducting a comprehensive site wide investigation of the storm water collection system at MCSP,” said Gregor Larabee, Chief Regulatory Compliance for CDCR. “We have done camera work, we did do smoke testing and we’ve done dye tracing. Nothing
has shown a cross connection between sanitary sewer and storm water at the institution. Non-stormwater events are likely a result of groundwater infiltrating the center corridor stormwater collection system. It was identified during our camera work. You see the presence of water in the soil. We do not identify that as sewage. We did camera work through the center corridor up to each building. We are in the process now of negotiating an assignment with our consultant to do additional camera work that will include all the way under the buildings all the way out to the mains. We have found no evidence of cross connection of sewer and storm drain. CDCR takes this issue very seriously and we are working cooperatively with RWQCB. We are focused on identifying any issues that are present and taking care of them.”
“The problem with the RWQCB is that they don’t seem to be able to get CDCR to do anything,” said Sally Barron, a noted chemist and retired investigator with the California Air Resources Board. “CDCR had a contract with the City of Ione. When the population reaches a certain mark, they would build a tertiary treatment plant. It is a contract. It is valid. As far as CDCR’s investigation into cross connection under the prison, the iron pipe has an estimated lifespan of 30-40 years using cold water,” said Barron. “There are three sewer systems. You have the sanitary sewer system. You have the stormwater system and you have the industrial sewage system which handles the waste from the prison industries that run three large operations inside the prison. They run hot water, and especially the meat processing facility uses extremely caustic chemicals to clean their processing area because they are USDA investigated, and therefore, they have to meet USDA standards so they can sell the products that they make there. Yes, caffeine was found in Mule Creek. The MCSP industries also has a big coffee roasting operation inside the prison and it decaffeinates coffee. If the coffee was coming from the sanitary sewage system, it would be in the form of by-products after digestion, not raw caffeine coming down the creek.”
“When MCSP gets over a tenth of an inch of rain, they will open their slide gates,” said Barron. “They will let the stormwater and sewage go down Mule Creek. Well, Mule Creek goes to Sutter Creek, which has rights to the water, and keeps going south into the Mokelumne River and there is a big fish hatchery down there and so, it seems to me, that the State of California is deliberately pouring contaminated sewage water into Federal waters which are the homes for the listed species such as salmon and steelhead in that area.”
Oneto asked if Larabee would comment on these allegations. Initially he said he had no comment, and then came back to address the board.
“We have not done anything specific to caffeine,” said Larabee. “Levels that we are aware of are relatively low. We are focused on the much more serious issues identified by the RWQCB. Samples from the stormwater collection system have been taken daily from January 2018 through October 2018. We sent notice to the RWQCB that we open our slide gates when there is a tenth of an inch of rain in an hour or three tenths of an inch in twenty four hours.”
The board then questioned CDCR on the subject of volume — clean water in, wastewater out — thresholds on the system at MCSP and the contract that CDCR would build a tertiary treatment plant.
“I don’t have any of that information readily available,” said Larabee. “I am honestly not familiar with the specifics of that contract. I can’t offer any information on that. The RWQCB has complete access to MCSP. All the folks working in the enforcement group on this issue at the prison can gain access to MCSP, notification for clearance is the only restriction.”
Ione resident Jim Scully who owns property along Mule Creek then came to the podium.
“There is more than a little liability in this issue,” said Scully. “This has been brought here before. I brought the contract to this board five or six years ago. The contract is still valid. Two decades of yelling and screaming and seeing absolutely nothing done from anyone. Five state agencies that have jurisdiction had professional paralysis. Go to your boss, scratch out an injunction commanding every employee to immediately comply with your instructions. We’ve been at this for over two decades. Finally something is being done. What is really upsetting, is how many people had to get ill before the people that claim to be highly paid professionals, did what they need to do.”
The Ledger Dispatch did receive an official response from CDCR out of Sacramento.
“CDCR has conducted an extensive investigation of its storm and sewer systems in full cooperation with the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board, the State Water Board and officials at the Environmental Protection Agency. To date, that investigation has not discovered a link between the sewer system and the storm drains. Nonetheless, CDCR has committed to conduct additional tests to satisfy the concerns of these agencies and to ensure the safety of Amador County residents.”
“As District 2 Supervisor, I want to ensure the residents of Ione and property owners nearby MCSP are not impacted negatively from operations at MCSP,” Said Forster. “If people are getting sick, the responsible entity needs to held accountable.
The county has personnel looking at this issue to determine if the information from the State is accurate. I hope CDCR and other State departments with oversight authority are honest and transparent with their analysis and information conveyed to the public. The county has always taken the stance with MCSP of trust but verify.”
When CDCR was asked when the additional tests would occur, if it would include investigating all three sewer systems and under the prison, who would conduct those tests and when those tests would be made public, CDCR responded.
SPECIAL REPORT - california department of corrections
Regional water quality control board Confirms Contamination at Mule Creek State Prison
“We’ve been following the series of articles in the Ledger Dispatch, and we are very concerned with the discharge and flow of contaminated water that is occurring at Mule Creek State Prison (MCSP) coming from an undetermined source,” said Andrew Altevogt, Assistant Executive Officer of the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB). “Based on the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) tests over the past year and the range of constituents, including VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds), E. coli (Escherichia coli bacteria), coliform and metals — we can tell you somewhere things are getting into the storm drain system at MCSP. There is contamination occurring, but we don’t know where it is coming from.”
The severity of contamination is also undetermined.
According to David Anderson, a worker that was hired to install a culvert along MCSP, there is massive failure of the sewer system underneath the prison facility.
“With the perpetual flow of contaminated water I have witnessed and documented,” said Anderson, “MCSP has a catastrophic failure of their sewer and storm drain system and is dumping industrial and domestic sewage into Mule Creek. The problem is the State of California can’t fix it, or won’t, because a prison sits on top of it and if it is happening here, it’s likely a problem throughout the entire prison system in California. It’s too expensive to fix, no plan, and they (CDCR) continue to get away with the contamination.”
“We’ve been waiting for David to take on Goliath,” said Stacy Rhoades, of the Ione City Council. “And make no mistake CDCR thinks they are Goliath and untouchable. Neighboring property owners and history shows that
contamination is an issue. It’s been a problem for decades and nothing has been done to address it.”
“We’ve really only been made aware that contaminants have been entering the storm drain system this past year,” said Harold Hold, RWQCB Compliance and Enforcement Section. “Previous issues were related to MCSP’s spray fields collection and spills, not failure of the sewer system or looking beneath the prison.”
CDCR has done some camera work as well as smoke tests, but the results were inconclusive.
“Somewhere, contaminants are getting into the system,” said Altevogt. “Most likely, it is under MCSP itself. While CDCR conducted tests, they haven’t done enough of it or taken a look under the prison itself. Until that is done, we won’t know if that is the source of contamination. But the source, whatever it may be, is likely to be found under the prison.”
In April of 2018 CDCR hired Source Molecular out of Miami, Florida to test for human DNA in the water stream coming from the drain system. The tests claimed to not have detected human DNA and the CDCR concluded the waste was bird waste.
“DNA source tracking is in its infancy,” said Altevogt. “It’s experimental.”
The RWQCB reviewed the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitations Mule Creek State Prison’s Storm Water Collection System Investigation Findings Report, and found it to be materially deficient. Additionally, the data clearly shows wastewater is being discharged to the storm water system, and historically had been discharged into Mule Creek.
The Ledger Dispatch has hired a firm to conduct tests as part of our ongoing investigation. Those tests will include a look at human biomarkers, pharmaceuticals, as well as a full breakdown of VOC’s and SVOC’s. To date, no studies other than minimal smoke tests and camera work have been conducted. A look beneath MCSP has yet to be started or completed, yet a constant flow of contaminated water is in MCSP’s storm drain system.