- Ventura County, CA Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Bennett has lowered Santa Clara Waste Water Co. CEO William Mitzel’s bail, imposed for a second of two sets of criminal charges since Aug. 2015. Senior Deputy District Attorney Karen Wold requested that Mitzel's bail be increased from $20,000 to $200,000 in the first case. But Judge Bennett left bail at the original $20,000 and lowered bail in the more recent case from $500,000 to $200,000. Mitzel will be arraigned Dec. 28.
- Currently, Mitzel is up on 11 charges, tied to allegations that he was aware that more than 5,000 gallons of hazardous materials were stored at the facility near Santa Paula. He is charged with felony reckless disregard for handling hazardous waste causing unreasonable risk, conspiracy to commit a crime, unlawful hazardous waste disposal, and falsification of statements, among other crimes.
- The earlier grand jury indictment of Mitzel and seven other Santa Clara Waste Water Company officials resulted from a toxic explosion Nov. 18, 2014, at the same facility. Parent company Green Compass employees also were indicted in that case where a truck exploded causing a 1,000-gallon chemical spill, injuring seven people and exposing more than a dozen others to air contaminants.
"This defendant continued to commit crimes while he was out on bail," said Senior Deputy District Attorney Karen Wold to the Ventura County Star. "He continued to hide hazardous waste ... and county Environmental Health (officials) have indicated they have been unable to get the company in compliance."
Defense Attorney Barry Groveman claims Wold’s office used "intimidation tactics" in the case.
"We are very pleased with the judge's decision because all we asked for is fairness and we got it today," Groveman said after the bail hearing.
He added that said Santa Clara Waste Water is taking action, in cooperation with the county’s Environmental Health Department, to correct alleged violations by early January.
This is not the first large California company to face similar charges this year. At the start of 2015, a retail chain paid California $2 million for illegally storing and handling hazardous materials waste — a practice that led to new internal hazardous waste policies for that company.