The producer of Crystal Geyser Alpine Spring Water and two other companies are facing federal charges in Los Angeles of illegally transporting hazardous waste containing arsenic, prosecutors announced Thursday.
A federal grand jury returned the 16-count indictment Wednesday against CG Roxane, which produces Crystal Geyser in Olancha; United Pumping Services, a City of Industry waste-hauling corporation; and United Storm Water, an Industry-based company providing environmental and lake draining services, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The companies are charged with violating the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and Hazardous Materials Transportation Act by their alleged failure to disclose information regarding arsenic in wastewater transported from Crystal Geyser’s plant in March and May 2015.
A message left with a Crystal Geyser representative was not immediately answered.
The case focuses on alleged violations involving the bottling plant’s wastewater, not the safety or quality of Crystal Geyser’s water, prosecutors said.
“Our nation’s environmental laws are specifically designed to ensure that hazardous wastes are properly handled from beginning to end — from the point of generation to the point of disposal,” said U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna. “The alleged behavior of the three companies charged in this indictment undermines that important objective and jeopardizes the safety of our community.”
According to the indictment, Crystal Geyser would draw water from natural sources that contained naturally occurring arsenic, using sand filters to reduce the concentration of the toxin so the water met federal drinking water standards.
To maintain the effectiveness of the filters, the bottled water company would regenerate them by back-flushing a hydroxide and water solution through the filters, causing the release of arsenic into the hydroxide and water solution. This process would generate thousands of gallons of arsenic-contaminated wastewater, according to the indictment filed in Los Angeles federal court.
Prosecutors contend that Crystal Geyser discharged the arsenic-contaminated wastewater into a nearby manmade pond which the company dubbed the “Arsenic Pond.” In September 2014, testing by the state Department of Toxic Substances Control showed that the wastewater stored in the pond constituted a hazardous waste and Crystal Geyser stopped discharging wastewater there, prosecutors said.
The indictment further alleges that, in March 2015, Crystal Geyser regenerated and back-flushed the sand filters and, hired United Pumping and United Storm Water to transport several thousand gallons of high pH, arsenic-contaminated wastewater to a hazardous waste facility in Los Angeles County.
During its transportation, the defendants utilized manifests that did not disclose any information about the arsenic content of the wastewater, contrary to law, the indictment alleges.
Prosecutors allege that in May 2015, Crystal Geyser again hired United Pumping and United Storm Water, this time to drain and transport the pond. The wastewater was allegedly hauled to a facility in Fontana, despite the fact that the plant was not permitted to treat hazardous waste, according to the indictment.
The indictment alleges that Crystal Geyser, United Pumping and United Storm Water transported the contents of the Arsenic Pond using documents that did not identify the poison in the wastewater — even though, prosecutors contend, they knew that the water constituted arsenic hazardous waste.
Each of the defendants faces a fine of up to $8 million if convicted of all 16 counts in the indictment, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The Environmental Protection Agency and its partners in law enforcement “are committed to the protection of public health and safety,” said Special Agent-in-Charge Jay M. Green of EPA’s criminal enforcement program in California.
“This case was opened due to the hazards posed by illegal management and transportation of hazardous wastes,” he said, adding that the charges “demonstrate that those who refuse to comply with the law will be held to account and prosecuted.”