Scenes from an explosion/investigation: Fracking radioactivity sent to Oxnard/Pacific

Although it hasn’t been widely reported, the explosion at Santa Clara Waste Water Corporation (SCWWC) near Santa Paula last November came about a month after the Oxnard waste water treatment plant, which processes the waste water sent to it via a 14-mile pipeline from SCWW, noticed high levels of radioactivity in its sampling. Because the waste water after treatment ends up in the Pacific, this is not allowed by the federal Clean Water Act. Oxnard sent a cease and desist letter to SCWW.

After the explosion, the court investigators looked into this dispute. The writing — from the search warrant request dated 3/30/15 — is officious and dry, but the facts will drop your jaw. In short, according to its own people, Santa Clara Waste Water piped radioactivity from frack jobs to Oxnard: 

“SCWWC has an agreement entitled “Wastewater Conveyance and Treatment Services Agreement” entered into with Oxnard on July 15,2004 and covered a period of five years, expiring on July 15, 2009. The scope of services pursuant to the contract is, in part, as follows: The city agreed to accept and treat no more than 600,000 gallons of wastewater per day discharged by SCWWC into the city’s sewerage system in accordance with SCWWC’s Industrial Wastewater DIscharge Permit No. OC-8 or any future permit issued pursuant to provisions of Chapter 25 of the Oxnard City Code. The agreement required SCWWC to pay the City of Oxnard all fees pursuant to Ordinance 2632 pulus a fee of $.032 (3.2 cents) per barrel of wastewater discharges into the City’s sewerage system…[Oxnard wastewater specialist] Jeremy Grant said SCWWC paid the same rate per barrel that was initially set in l988. Grant did not know why the rate never increased.”

“The Indistrial Waste Discharge Permit is governed by 40 CFR 437.47 (the Clean Water Act). As part of the permit, SCWW is required to provide montlhy self-monitor reports. The reports must be certified. The reports were certified by Chuck Mundy and were provided monthly to Jeremy Grant.”

“On August 5, 2014, the City of Oxnard conducted semiannual sampling of its effluent discharge to be analyzed for radioactivity. The effluent sample was collected and sent to Weck Laboratories for analysis. A report from Weck Laboratories dated September 5, 2014 indicated a result of 94 pCI/L for Gross Beta [aka Potassium-40] which exceeded the maximum daily effluent limit of 50 pCi/L for the parameter. In respone to this violation, the City of Oxnard initiated an investigation to identify the source of the radioactivity. On September 24, 2014 City personnel collected a wastewater sample at the sample port on Wooley Road and Richmond Avenue. The sample results indicated a Gross Beta concentration of 4,400 pCI/L.” 

[Catch that? Santa Clara Waste Water was allowed to emit 50 picocuries per liter of radioactivity, and was emitting 4400. According to my calculator, that’s approximately 90x the legal limit.]

On October 15, 2014 [about a month before the explosion] a meeting was convened with Grant, Plant Superintendent Mike Wilson, and others to discuss the findings and come up with an action plan. On October 15, 2014 City staff collected additional samples of SCWW discharge. A sample taken at the port on Wooley Road near Richmond Avenue was determined to be 3000 pCi/L Bross Beta (exceeding the effluent limit of 50 pCi/L)….” [other samples were lower, but still mostly exceeding the legal limit].

On October 22, 2014, Grant delivered a cease and desist order to SCWWC and discussed their pending investigation of waste water discharges containing Gross Beta radiation. Bill Mitzel, Chief Executive Officer for Green Compass, accepted the order. The City also notified Chuck Mundy. Mundy said the discharge was from frack water from Vintage Oil. SCWWC did not deny the Gross Beta radiation was from their facility. 

[Note: By contract and by law, SCWW was not allowed to accept hazardous waste — including radioactivity.]

Here’s a picture of CEO Bill Mitzel, from a booking photo:


Mitzel faces five felony charges, including “impairment of the body of an employee in violation of the labor code,” and two misdeamenors, for a total of 17 felony counts and 5 misdemeanors.






Published by Kit Stolz

I'm a freelance reporter and writer based in Ventura County.

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