Editorial: Mistake II at the Ranch

After lauding Christopher Ranch’s response to a wastewater
discharge discovered in early February, it’s hugely disappointing
to report that another discharge occured just a few weeks
later.
After lauding Christopher Ranch’s response to a wastewater discharge discovered on Feb. 3, it’s hugely disappointing to report that another discharge occured on Feb. 27.

The Feb. 3 spill spewed garlic-tainted wastewater into Uvas Creek. That toxic flow killed thousands of fish in Uvas Creek, including dozens of threatened steelhead trout.

The company quickly acknowledged its responsibility for the Feb. 3 spill. It assured regulators that it had taken all the necessary steps to prevent another accidental discharge.

“We feel bad that it happened and we’re trying to make sure it won’t happen again,” Christopher Ranch owner Bill Christopher said.

He sounded convincing, and seemed to convince regulators.

“At this point, the problem should be fixed,” California Department of Fish and Game warden Kyle Kroll told reporter Serdar Tumgoren.

But not everyone took the bait.

Since the Feb. 3 spill, regulators staked out Uvas Creek where the pipeline flows in, and in a driving rainstorm discovered that Christopher Ranch was in violation of its wastewater permit and lacks a map of its underground pipe system.

The Feb. 3 discharge should have been a wake-up call to Christopher Ranch’s owners and managers to double check everything, to quickly get its operations in compliance with all to make certain another discharge would not occur.

It provided the company with a second chance.

Instead, less than a month later, another discharge was discovered by a National Marine Fisheries Service biologist who was inspecting the creek because it is a prime spawning area for steelhead trout.

“The amount of water coming out of that pipe seemed far in excess of what you’d expect on a normal rainy day,” Jonathan Ambrose said of the Feb. 27 incident.

Understandably, environmental regulators and the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office were unhappy to hear about the Feb. 27 discovery.

We hate to see the reputation of Gilroy icon like Christopher Ranch tarnished. It hurts the entire community.

But even more, we also hate to see important rules and regulations flouted and the environment that we all share damaged.

Especially by a company that’s nearly synonymous with Gilroy.

Now, it’s wait-and-see time while the government, prosecutors and the company work through the issues. At the very least, there will likely be hefty fines involved. Let’s hope that’s the extent of it.

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