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Two Corporations Plead Guilty to Their Role in Hazardous Chemical Explosion

On June 6, 2019, in the Superior Court of Ventura County, California, Santa Clara Waste Water Company and Green Compass Environmental Solutions, LLC, entered no contest pleas for their roles in a November 2014 explosion in Santa Paula, California. The two corporations were also charged with storing undisclosed hazardous chemicals. As a result of the pleas, they are required to pay $2,797,621 in restitution.
On November 18, 2014, an explosion occurred at a wastewater treatment facility owned and operated by the two corporations. The investigation revealed that mixing and disposing of hazardous chemicals into a vacuum truck that was not rated to hold or transport chemicals caused the explosion. About three dozen employees and first responders were injured—either by the explosion itself or because they inhaled toxic vapors.
A search warrant served during the investigation led to the discovery of approximately 5,500 gallons of sodium hydroxide stored in a locked shipping container. The corporations did not report these chemicals in the California Environmental Reporting System, as they are legally required to do.
DOT-OIG conducted this investigation with the Environmental Protection Agency–Criminal Investigation Division (EPA-CID) and the Ventura County District Attorney.