, a commercial flower company off Frenchman’s Creek Road that does business under the name of Half Moon Bay Orchids, allegedly violated various environmental and workplace safety laws and regulations, and now they have to pay for it.
The Consumer and Environmental Unit of the District Attorney’s Office on Thursday obtained a final judgment against Challenge Horticulture, Inc. for polluting the waterways of Loess Creek — which drains into Frenchman's Creek and the Pacific Ocean — by failing to prevent petroleum from passing into the waterway and disposing of hazardous waste at an unauthorized point.
The complaint also alleges that Challenge Horticulture, Inc. diverted or obstructed a stream without prior authorization from the Department of Fish and Game and failed to immediately report the release of hazardous materials to the proper authorities, obtain a project permit from CalOSHA, and protect employees in an excavation from cave-ins by an adequate protective system.
Pollution to these waterways caused by siltation, erosion, rocks, runoff, and/or hazardous substances damages the waterways and affects the areas’ wildlife and vegetation, according to the California Department of Fish and Game, which worked with the District Attorney’s Office and county Environmental Health Division in this civil enforcement action.
The District Attorney’s civil complaint alleges two separate violations, according to a report from DA Steve Wagstaffe.
The first violation was reported on Nov. 9, 2009 by a California Department of Fish and Game warden who saw Challenge Horticulture, Inc. employees altering and disturbing the bed and bank of a portion of Frenchman’s Creek without prior notification to, and permits from, the Department of Fish and Game, Water Resources Board, San Mateo County, California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, or any other governmental agency.
The employees were in the process of installing a new system for pumping water from Loess Creek to support commercial operations on the property.
The second incident occurred end of June 2010.
The complaint alleges that Challenge Horticulture, Inc. employees were demolishing a structure on the company’s property and, in so doing, unintentionally damaged a ground-level pipe that connected to three above-ground storage tanks.
Each tank was capable of holding approximately 10,000 gallons.
One of the tanks contained thousands of gallons of red dye diesel.
The damaged pipe began releasing red dye diesel into the soil, where it spread to Loess Creek, Frenchman’s Creek, and ultimately to the Pacific Ocean.
The release resulted in soil and waterway pollution and contamination.
Based on these two incidents, the judgment requires a full compliance with applicable environmental protection and workplace safety laws and regulations and the payment of $139K in civil penalties and reimbursement of enforcement and emergency response costs.
In the stipulated judgment, Challenge Horticulture, Inc. agreed to cease the conduct alleged by the District Attorney’s civil complaint and consented to a court injunction barring the conduct in the future.
The company cooperated in the resolution of the case and has taken action to clean up the released diesel.
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