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Bottled water company pleads guilty to polluting California's ecosystem with arsenic

Crystal Geyser Natural Alpine Spring Water's parent company has been illegally pumping arsenic-contaminated water into an "Arsenic Pond."

Bottled water company pleads guilty to polluting California's ecosystem with arsenic
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The company that produces bottled water brand Crystal Geyser Natural Alpine Spring Water pleaded guilty to counts of illegal hazardous waste material handling earlier this month and has agreed to pay a fine of $5 million. The company, CG Roxane, LLC, admitted, firstly, to the unlawful storage of hazardous waste, and secondly, to the unlawful transportation of hazardous material, PEOPLE reports. However, apart from coughing up the rather small fine, it appears that the firm will not be held further responsible for the ecological damage that they have caused. This is sadly another example of how neoliberal capitalism does not work in the modern age.


The incident took place in the company's facility in Olancha, California. On January 9, CG Roxane pleaded guilty to two counts of illegal hazardous waste disposal, one of its storage and the other of its transportation. The firm agreed to pay a fine of $5 million —- a small and unimpressive fraction of its revenues — in a plea agreement filed in a United States District Court. CG Roxane had essentially sourced groundwater from the Sierra Nevada mountains in California. This groundwater was naturally arsenic. In order to filter it out, the company utilized sand filters. This process typically generates arsenic-contaminated wastewater, as correctly identified by the United States Attorney's Office.


The Office explained in a press release, "To maintain the effectiveness of the sand filters, CG Roxane back-flushed the filters with a sodium hydroxide solution, which generated thousands of gallons of arsenic-contaminated wastewater." The contaminated wastewater was then irresponsibly dumped into a manmade pond for an estimated 15 years. This pond was referred to as the "Arsenic Pond." In March 2013, local authorities noticed a sample of the pond displayed arsenic levels at more than eight times the hazardous waste limit. It was at this moment that they became aware of the company's illegal handlings.


Two years later, in 2015, CG Roxane was categorically instructed to remove the Arsenic Pond. Yet again, the company chose to cut corners in order to make a quick buck. As per the US Attorney's Office, the removal "was done without the proper manifest and without identifying the wastewater as a hazardous material." The press release further detailed, "The arsenic-contaminated wastewater was ultimately transported to a Southern California facility that was not authorized to receive or treat hazardous waste. As a result, more than 23,000 gallons of the wastewater from the Arsenic Pond allegedly was discharged into a sewer without appropriate treatment."


On April 21 this year, the two companies hired to transport and treat the wastewater are set to go on trial. They may face a maximum fine of $8 million each if convicted (again, a rather small fine in relative terms). The irony remains in the fact that CG Roxane markets Crystal Geyser Natural Alpine Spring Water as a "good citizen and partner in each of the seven communities" where it produces its beverages. The truth, evidently, could not be further from this assertion. Their website alleges, "We actively participate in supporting our communities, from providing excellent local employment opportunities to community sponsorships and college scholarships. All while protecting the natural surroundings, environments and habitats of our spring water sources." Just another example of unchecked capital power running amok on planet Earth.


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