SANTA PAULA, Calif. - [UPDATE: 11/20/15]
District Attorney Gregory D. Totten announced today that Brock Gustin William Baker, 41, and Mark Stephen Avila, 49, pled guilty to failure to warn of a concealed danger, a felony violation of interference with enforcement, a misdemeanor violation of Health and Safety Code, and two misdemeanors in violation of Labor Code section related to storage of hazardous substances and repeated failures to communicate with employees about hazardous substances.
Baker and Avila's guilty pleas were entered as to charges in the indictment returned by the Ventura County Grand Jury in connection with their involvement in an explosion that occurred at Santa Clara Waste Water Company located at 815 Mission Rock Road in Santa Paula, California on November 18, 2014.
A sentencing hearing for both defendants was scheduled for June 1, 2016, at 9:00 a.m. in Courtroom 12 of the Ventura Superior Court.
On Wednesday, the Ventura County District Attorney's Office announced the indictment of Santa Clara Waste Water Company, Green Compass Environmental Solutions LLC, and several individuals for crimes related to the operations of Santa Clara Waste Water Company's Santa Paula Facility.
The individuals indicted were: Douglas Brian Edwards of Oxnard, William James Mitzel of La Verne, Charles Ray Mundy of Ventura, Dean Michael Poe of Ventura, Brock Gustin William Baker of Carpinteria, Mark Stephen Avila of Fillmore, Marlene Joan Faltemier of Ventura, David Joseph Wirsing and Kenneth Douglas Griffin Jr. of Ventura.
This case arises from a 9-month investigation into the Santa Paula explosion at the Waste Water Company facility, which occurred on November 18, 2014. Officials said that the explosion and its chemical residue caused injury to numerous individuals, including employees of the company and first responders.
The charges include conspiracy to dispose hazardous waste, failure to warn of a serious concealed danger, handling a hazardous waste with a reckless disregard for human life, withholding information regarding a substantial danger to public safety, filing a false or forged instrument, and dissuading a witness.
The Chairman of the Board at the Santa Clara Waste Water Company woke up to an emergency call reporting the biggest disaster in the company's long history.
Doug Edwards said a Patriot employee hired to drive a truck was on an overnight lunch break when he heard a chemical combustion.
A tank filled with industrial waste exploded. The blast blew the end off the worker's truck and ignited several fires along Mission Rock Road near Santa Paula. The worker was hospitalized with a cut to his leg. Dozens of others, including first responders and emergency room workers had to be decontaminated and checked for respiratory problems and skin irritation. Firefighters detected organic peroxide and sulfuric acid and called for a mandatory evacuations in nearby areas for most of the day.
Although the company handles oil and gas waste at other locations, Edwards said the workers were probably treating waste from porta-potties or septic tanks.
He is cooperating with CalOsha and Environmental Health investigators, but he has not been allowed on the property.
Edwards said he is aware his company could face fines if proper permitted procedures were not followed, but he said he is more concerned with the well-being of the community.
The 55-year-old company has faced a $1,500 fine in the past. Edwards said he was just grateful no one was critically injured.