Lawsuit against Casa de Fruta settled

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Gilroy
– A lawsuit filed by the county, alleging that Casa de Fruta
violated state environmental regulations over five years, was
settled for $105,000 Monday.
By Lori Stuenkel

Gilroy – A lawsuit filed by the county, alleging that Casa de Fruta violated state environmental regulations over five years, was settled for $105,000 Monday.

The violations relate to the gas station run by Casa de Fruta, and require the company to pay $80,000 in civil penalties and investigative costs, as well as contribute $25,000 to the Land Trust for Santa Clara County.

The county’s suit, filed last October, alleges that inspectors from the County Department of Environmental Health, Hazardous Materials Compliance Division found violations between June 1998 and May 2003. As part of the settlement, Casa de Fruta admitted to violating two sections of California Health and Safety Code, and one section of the Business and Professions Code.

Among the violations were the improper disposal of used fuel filters, hiring non-certified contractors to transport used oil, and failing to frequently inspect above-ground tanks and test monitoring systems for underground storage tanks.

Casa de Fruta has since come into compliance, said Deputy District Attorney Kenneth Rosenblatt with the Environmental Protection unit.

“Although Casa de Fruta has come into compliance, they were not in compliance for a period of time,” Rosenblatt said, adding that the violations continued after numerous inspections. “You can’t point to one thing … but there’s lots of little things that, thankfully didn’t cause any injury, but should’ve been taken care of.”

Contacted Monday afternoon, a lawyer for Casa de Fruta said via e-mail that he had no comment.

Inspectors with hazardous materials compliance conduct inspections once every one or two years, Rosenblatt said.

“They almost always find something, because their environmental rules are pretty stringent,” he said.

Casa de Fruta’s $25,000 contribution to the Land Trust will be used for acquisition and costs in the Pajaro Project area, which encompasses the Pajaro River Watershed in South County and western San Benito County. The Pajaro Project seeks to protect the wildlife corridor at the upper Pajaro River, preserve agricultural land, and maintain the floodplain.

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