A national mushroom grower agreed to shell out $2.24 million to settle an environmental protection lawsuit that accused the company of polluting a creek in Morgan Hill.
The company, Monterey Mushrooms, Inc., also agreed to a five-year injunction with training, testing and oversight conditions, according to the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office, which filed the initial lawsuit in December 2018.
The DA’s office and environmental regulators say Monterey Mushrooms’ Hale Avenue growing facility violated multiple Fish and Game and Business and Professions laws from 2012 to 2017, despite numerous orders and warnings dating back decades. The lawsuit, which initially sought $67 million in damages from Monterey Mushrooms, stated that the facility allowed its farm production waste and other wastewater to flow into Fisher Creek and its tributaries, which border the north Morgan Hill facility.
“There has to be major accountability for years and years of preventable pollution,” DA Jeff Rosen said. “Companies in this county should be crystal clear that illegally sacrificing our environment will not be profitable in the long run or tolerated, ever.”
Monterey Mushrooms received several clean-up and abatement orders from the Regional Water Quality Board dating back to 1985, but the facility routinely discharged and allowed dirty wastewater with toxic levels of ammonia to flow into Fisher Creek, according to the DA’s office.
An investigation by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife and the DA’s office found that from early 2016 to the spring of 2017, Monterey Mushrooms released hundreds of thousands of gallons of wastewater from its holding ponds into waterways instead of paying to either contain it or dispose of it properly.
Furthermore, for years, the Morgan Hill facility had stored large piles of compost close to Fisher Creek; this allowed toxins and organic matter to flow into the stream with storm runoff, according to the DA’s office.
Fisher Creek flows into Coyote Creek, which flows northwest into the San Francisco Bay.
Since the DA’s office filed the lawsuit in 2018, Monterey Mushrooms has spent nearly $2.75 million on facility upgrades, according to the DA’s office.
Monterey Mushrooms is based in Watsonville and owns facilities all over North America.