On April 14, 2017, Douglas Edwards, chairman of the board and former CEO of Santa Clara Waste Water Company (SCWWC), Oxnard, California, pleaded no contest and was sentenced in the Superior Court of California, Ventura County, to 36 months’ probation and ordered not to seek employment at any company that performs environmental services in California. He also agreed to pay $350,000 in restitution for improperly storing incompatible chemicals, failing to provide proper protective devices to employees, and failing to update a hazardous materials inventory.
Edwards had been indicted on August 19, 2015, for his role in a November 18, 2014, explosion at the SCWWC facility in Santa Paula, California. The investigation revealed the blast was caused by the mixing and disposal of hazardous chemicals in a vacuum truck that was not rated to transport chemicals. SCWWC stored hazardous materials in excess of the amounts it was permitted to keep in its inventory, and company officials transferred these materials to an unsecured truck lot offsite prior to scheduled inspections. On the morning of the explosion, a Defense Logistics Agency contractor was conducting a scheduled inspection of SCWWC, and internal cleanup efforts were underway. Hazardous materials had been sucked from approximately 20 unlabeled chemical totes into a vacuum cargo tank trailer when the explosion occurred. Numerous employees, first responders, and others were injured either by the explosion or when they inhaled toxic vapors that developed onsite shortly afterward. SCWWC also disposed of hazardous waste by utilizing a wastewater pipeline to the city of Oxnard’s sewage plant and trailers to the Chiquita Canyon Landfill; neither facility was approved for the disposal of hazardous waste.
DOT-OIG conducted this investigation with the Environmental Protection Agency-Criminal Investigation Division and the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office.