To question the flak generated by Los Banos-based Morning Star Company, what's so innovative about lying to the state water board? Maybe it's getting caught due to neighbors' complaints. The fine is fairly hefty and that will cause Morning Star's lawyers to exert themselves greatly to gain innovative reductions in the amount of at least 30 percent, along the lines of the nearby Hilmar Cheese fine and final settlement.
The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board has found that Morning Star's Williams plant is a "state of the art" groundwater polluter.
It is a story of agribusiness "progress" at work. -- blj
Tomato packing plant fined $1.5 for wastewater violations
Water regulators fined a Northern California tomato processing plant $1.5 million for expanding two wastewater ponds from 60 to 100 acres without permission and improperly disposing of millions of gallons of waste, authorities announced Monday.
Staff at the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board discovered the unauthorized expansion in August after receiving odor complaints from neighbors of the Morning Star Packing Co.'s plant in Williams, the board said.
An estimated 266 million gallons of wastewater were discharged from the ponds' unauthorized expansion to groundwater, the board said. That expansion resulted in the reduction from 695 acres to 485 acres in cropland, which helps remove contaminants before the wastewater percolates into the groundwater.
Morning Star failed to disclose the ponds' expansions to the board during the 2012 permit update process, and because of that the existing permit does not consider the expansions' effect on groundwater quality, officials said.
"In adopting this order, our board members noted the egregious nature of Morning Star's actions" said Andrew Altevogt, assistant executive officer for the Regional Water Board. "When a discharger chooses to mislead our staff in this way, we are unable to assure that their practices will be protective of water quality."
The Morning Star Packing Co., a leading supplier of tomato products with plants in Northern and Southern California, did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
The Morning Star Company
A little history...
The Morning Star Company was founded in 1970 by Chris Rufer as a one truck owner operator, hauling tomatoes to other canneries. Today, Morning Star accounts for over 25% of the California processing tomato production, supplying 40% of the U.S. ingredient tomato paste and diced tomato markets, with industrial sales of approximately $350 million.
In 1982, Chris founded a tomato paste processing plant with three grower investors, and originated and implemented two important innovations in the tomato industry; namely, (1) the dedicated production and marketing of industrial tomato paste and (2) the marketing of tomato paste in the "300 gallon bag-in-box." As tomato paste requirements grew The Morning Star Packing Company-Los Banos was founded and built in 1990. Through innovative thinking, common sense, and experience we improved the quality and lowered our cost of producing tomato paste. This facility processes approximately 530 tons of tomatoes (180,000 pounds of tomato paste) per hour.
In 1995, The Morning Star Packing Company-Williams was built. The Williams facility combines state of the art technology with economies of scale. This facility processes approximately 630 tons of tomatoes (200,000 pounds of tomato paste) per hour, making it the largest tomato processing facility in California. We also established the California Sun Harvesting Company (Cal-Sun) in a partnership with prominent tomato growers primarily to reduce the cost of tomato harvesting and create efficiencies in the harvesting, trucking and the processing of tomatoes.
In 2002, Morning Star founded Liberty Packing Company, Santa Nella. The original plant was built in 1975, but completely revamped in 2002. Liberty Packing does all the diced processing for Morning Star which has been doing bulk diced products since 1993.
At all Morning Star facilities, we emphasize innovative thought, and we strive to use available resources and technology to their fullest potential in order to continuously improve quality, productivity and service for our customer. As important as quality, service and price are, we know there is more. To remain competitive for the long term, we must be innovative. That is why we rigorously maintain our position as the major force developing and implementing new and improved technology in our industry...