The enforcement of California’s environmental laws is essential to protect human health, the environment, and the state and local economies. Fair and uniform enforcement of rules and regulations governing the environment benefits law abiding businesses, individuals, and improves the quality of life in our community.
Deputy District Attorneys assigned to the Environmental Protection Unit prosecute businesses and individuals who violate environmental laws and workplace safety in Ventura County. We are committed to protecting the environment and work closely with agencies tasked with achieving and enforcing environmental regulatory compliance and protecting aquatic life in our local streambeds as well as the Channel Islands and Ventura Harbors.
The Environmental Protection Unit investigates and prosecutes a variety of cases in collaboration with local, state, and federal agencies. These cases range from the illegal transportation and disposal of hazardous waste, oilfield related petroleum releases, illegal disposal of medical waste, underground storage tank leak detection monitoring deficiencies and improper management of pesticides; all of which can negatively impact public safety, human health, wildlife, and our natural resources.
Along with our team of prosecutors and investigators, the Environmental Protection Unit includes an Environmental Specialist with over 25 years of environmental experience whose technical expertise, knowledge of complex regulatory laws and statutes, and industry operations contributes to the success of the unit’s criminal and civil prosecutions.
The District Attorney’s Office Environmental Protection Unit regularly hosts Environmental Crimes Task Force meetings attended by multiple agencies in furtherance of our commitment to protect the environment. These agencies include the Ventura County Air Pollution Control District, Ventura County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office, Ventura County Environmental Health, California Department of Toxic Substance Control, California Department of Pesticide Regulation, California Environmental Protection Agency, California State Water Resources Control Board, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United States Environmental Protection Agency, and the Ventura County Fire Department. Together we coordinate local, state and federal efforts to investigate and prosecute environmental crimes in Ventura County.
Regulatory agencies as well as private citizens can refer environmental concerns regarding unlawful conduct by companies and persons to the Environmental Protection Unit for possible investigation and prosecution. The Environmental Protection Unit files criminal charges as well as civil lawsuits to obtain permanent injunctions and civil penalties that stop illegal activity and hold those responsible for harming the environment.
Office of the District Attorney
Special Prosecutions, Consumer and Environmental Protection Unit
Chris Harman, Supervising Attorney
5720 Ralston Street, Suite 300
Ventura, CA 93003-4010
NOTABLE CASES: ENVIRONMENTAL CRIMES
Lemon Packing Facility Settles Case for Unlawful Release of Air Contaminant
On February 8, 2019, a malfunction of fruit washing equipment at the Association's facility triggered the release of commercial grade sodium hypochlorite into the air. Sodium hypochlorite is the active ingredient in household bleach and is used to sterilize fruit prior to packing. Two local schools, Blanchard Elementary School and Briggs School, were required to shelter in place due to the incident.
Fisherman Settles Case Involving Diesel Spill at Ventura Harbor
On June 2, 2018, the Ventura Harbor District (VHD) was notified that Albatro was listing in its slip. Upon arriving on scene, VHD observed red dye diesel in the water surrounding the sinking boat. The United States Coast Guard and the VHD immediately performed containment and cleanup efforts to control and collect the fuel spill. During the cleanup, 24 drums of hazardous waste and contaminated debris were recovered from the harbor and transported to a licensed disposal facility.
Settlement Reached in Fuel Spill at Camarillo Airport
On February 19, 2019, a Sun Air employee was filling a 3,000 gallon mobile refueler truck containing jet A-1 fuel. A refueler overfill protection device malfunctioned, resulting in a significant amount of jet fuel being released into the environment.
Settlement Reached in Environmental Case
On February 9, 2021, routine maintenance activities on the commercial fishing boat "El Dorado," captained by Aliotti, caused a substantial amount of paint debris to float into the harbor and coat nearby aquatic life. Aliotti fully cooperated with the investigation and instituted remedial measures shortly thereafter to ensure a similar incident does not occur in the future.
Settlement Reached in Environmental Violations Case
On April 29, 2020, DFW was notified that maintenance was occurring at the Ventura Harbor on the vessel "Islander", operated by Island Packers. The maintenance involved sanding the deck of the boat without any containment measures in place. This resulted in substantial paint related debris floating into the harbor. Immediately after the incident, Island Packers fully cooperated with the investigation and instituted remedial measures to ensure a similar incident does not occur again in the future. This settlement is the result of a joint investigation conducted by the DFW and the District Attorney’s Office Consumer and Environmental Protection Unit.
Settlement Reached in Environmental Violations Case
The $100,000 settlement is comprised of civil penalties and cost recovery to the Ventura County Environmental Health Division (VCEHD) and the District Attorney's Consumer and Environmental Protection Unit (CEPU). This case was investigated by both agencies, which determined 4JR engaged in a pattern of significant violations under the law.
Pipeline Company and Contractor Responsible for 2016 Ventura Oil Spill Reach $1.6 Million Civil Settlement with State and County Agencies
A June 2016 spill occurred from a crude oil pipeline owned by Crimson following a valve replacement operation and restart of the pipeline. New valve flanges were not properly tightened by Crimson’s contractor, CD Lyon, which caused the release of more than 44,000 gallons of crude oil, damaged local natural resources, and required a comprehensive cleanup and investigation effort.
Defendant Pleads Guilty and is Sentenced for Unlawfully Killing a Mount Lion
After his guilty plea, Gonzalez was immediately sentenced by Judge David Hirsch to 30 days in the Ventura County Jail, 30 days in a work release program, and 240 hours of community service at an animal shelter. He was also placed on three years of summary probation and ordered to pay restitution.
Oxnard Business Ordered to Comply with Hazardous Waste Law
Between June 2016 and December 9, 2016, Arcturus negligently disposed of, or caused the disposal of, hazardous waste at unauthorized locations: the Del Norte Recycling Center located at 111 S. Del Norte Boulevard, Oxnard; and Gold Coast Recycling & Transfer Station located at 5275 Colt Street and Sperry Avenue, Ventura.
Settlement Reached with Anterra in Environmental Enforcement Action
The settlement resolves allegations that the Anterra Companies violated state laws regarding their transportation, handling, and disposal of oilfield waste. The complaint alleges that although the Anterra Companies were allowed by the California Department of Conservation, Department of Oil, Gas & Geothermal Resources to receive and dispose of non-hazardous "Class II" material produced from other oil or gas wells, they were not allowed to receive Class II material that was hazardous.