Santa Paula Times

OMI: Wastewater plant investigation will require lengthy review of evidence

March 26, 2003
Santa Paula News
By Peggy Kelley Santa Paula TimesIt’s going to take quite some time to review the evidence seized last week when the city’s wastewater treatment plant - operated by Englewood, Colorado Operations Management International (OMI) - according to a Ventura County deputy district attorney.County and federal agents raided the Corporation Street wastewater treatment plant Wednesday morning, hauling off computer records, documents and water samples, reportedly as part of a nationwide investigation into OMI.OMI has been operating the city’s aging wastewater treatment plant since 1998. According to a federal spokesman, the City of Santa Paula is not suspected of any wrongdoing.According to Deputy District Attorney Eric Dobroth, an environmental protection specialist spearheading the local case, the entire scope of the investigation and potential charges are yet to be determined and prosecutors expect a lengthy review of the evidence.The plant is suspected of dumping water that violates state and federal wastewater quality standards into the Santa Clara River. An investigation began late last year when the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board suspected the Santa Paula plant of violating standards required for an operating permit.
According to the search warrant affidavit, OMI allegedly filed false water-quality reports and possibly engaged in wrongful record keeping and reporting practices, the latter allegation involving Santa Paula - where 2.2 million gallons of wastewater are processed daily - and two Connecticut plants.The affidavit notes that OMI is suspected of falsely reporting residual chlorine concentrations, highly toxic to aquatic life. The plant exceeded the permit limit of 0.1 mg/l on 35 occasions between August 2001 and November 2002 at times reaching levels as high as 30 mg/l.Investigators found there have been several criminal investigations into violations across the United States including falsification of records, bypass of the sewage treatment plant and tampering of monitoring equipment, according to the affidavit.OMI operates 170 plants nationwide, including for the City of Fillmore.