W.A.T.E.R. Challenges City Permit for Crystal Geyser
W.A.T.E.R. and the Winnemem Wintu Tribe petitioned the Superior Court of Siskiyou County for a Writ of Mandate (Petition) against the City of Mt. Shasta, challenging its March 26, 2018 split-vote approval of the Industrial Waste Discharge Permit for Crystal Geyser Water Company and challenging the City's conclusion that the project was adequately considered in the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) prepared by the Lead Agency, Siskiyou County. The Petition contends that these actions of the City are in violation of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). According to an indemnification clause of the permit application, Crystal Geyser Water Company will be responsible for covering all legal and staff cost incurred by the City to address the Petition.
The Petition alleges that in approving the permit, the City abused its discretionary powers in violation of CEQA by relying upon an EIR that fails to include information necessary for informed decision-making and informed public participation, and in failing to adopt feasible mitigation measures within its jurisdiction. The validity of the EIR has been challenged in a separate case filed against Siskiyou County.
During the County’s administrative review process of the Crystal Geyser operations and the EIR, the City itself had submitted well-considered and detailed comments strongly objecting to numerous hazards of the project including excessive noise, lighting, traffic, improper wastewater disposal and possible inadequate ground water supplies. Subsequently, the City decided to not challenge the EIR in court, but nonetheless continued to maintain its objections raised in its previous comments on the Draft EIR. These valid issues raised by the City, and also by many other citizens and experts, were barely addressed and never resolved by the County. Despite the City’s knowledge that the EIR was potentially insufficient, the City conducted minimal reviews during its consideration of the wastewater Permit, and did not make formal “CEQA Findings” as required by CEQA law. Approval of the Permit without the required Responsible Agency findings thus violated CEQA.
The Petition further alleges that the approved Permit (a revision of the draft Permit evaluated in the EIR) includes additional waste streams that were not evaluated in the EIR process. Although Crystal Geyser had informed the City of its intention to seek the inclusion of additional waste streams long before the completion of the Draft EIR by the County, the City took no action as a Responsible Agency to include these known potential waste streams into the EIR’s analysis. In addition, the Permit allows for significant delay in requiring the necessary improvements to the City’s wastewater system, and this will result in impacts to the environment. The City failed to evaluate these impacts and failed to prepare supplemental CEQA documentation in order to support its decision to approve the permit.
The Petition further alleges that the EIR is faulty because Siskiyou County failed to complete required AB52 consultation with the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, and as a result, the EIR cannot support the City’s conclusions in its role as a Responsible Agency.
Finally, the Petition asserts the City failed to make formal CEQA Findings, and the one-sentence statement in the Resolution adopted to approve the Permit was insufficient to be considered the “CEQA Findings” to support the City’s approval.
W.A.T.E.R. representative Geneva Omann stated,
"If this bottling plant is going to be operating here, we want ALL of its effluent to go to the City wastewater treatment plant, but at the very least, the permitting and operations of the bottling plant and the waste water treatment plant must be in compliance with CEQA. Currently they are not. We are challenging the Permit approval to ensure the wastewater treatment plant, the environment, the Winnemem Wintu’s Traditional Cultural Resources, and City residents are all protected from potential adverse effects of the bottling plant. We are proud to stand with our brothers and sisters of the Winnemem Wintu in defending Water and our community.”
Winnemem Wintu Tribal Representatives, Mark Miyoshi and Luisa Navejas stated,
"The Winnemem Wintu were born from the pristine water of Mount Shasta and regard this water as a sacred relative, a living being that is being exploited, desecrated and polluted when it is put in a plastic bottle and commoditized. When we stand up for the life of the water from this Mountain that flows throughout the Tribe's traditional territory and becomes the mighty Sacramento and McCloud Rivers, we are defending the life of all free flowing streams and rivers and ultimately the precious life of our great Mother Ocean. All voices matter as the value of water is the value of life itself.”