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Final Defendant in Environmental Crimes Case Pleads Guilty

On September 13, 2019, Marlene Faltemier pleaded guilty to five State of California felony and misdemeanor charges that she impeded and interfered with environmental regulators, and failed to make regulatory reports concerning the storage of a hazardous material. Faltemier was formerly employed by Santa Clara Waste Water (SCWW), which is located near Santa Paula, California.
The investigation determined that a chemical blast at SCWW on November 18, 2014, spilled over 1,000 gallons of chemicals, including Petromax, a hazardous material. The Petromax ignited a fire that set off a series of additional explosions. Authorities issued mandatory evacuation orders within a 1-mile radius of the SCWW facility, and shelter-in-place orders within a 3-mile radius. Two employees at the waste water facility and three of the Santa Paula firefighters who responded to the blast were hurt. The firefighters had been told it was a sewage explosion and did not enter the facility with anything to protect them from the hazardous material.
Faltemier is the last of 11 defendants—both individuals and corporations—to be convicted in this case.
DOT-OIG is conducting this investigation with the Environmental Protection Agency–Criminal Investigations Division (EPA-CID) and the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office.