Environmental Protection

Woodland Biomass Power Documents (April, 2017) | FAQs

Press ReleaseFiled Complaint | Final Judgment and Permanent Injunction | Human and Ecological Risk Office Review of Lillard Trust Property | Remediation Plan (Ash Removal Work Plan) | The Near Davis Location - Lillard Ranch, County Road 102, Davis CA

Environmental Protection Investigation Uncovers Falsified Records and Disposal of Hazardous Waste on Agricultural Lands

Woodland, CA - May 2, 2017 - Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig announced that Yolo County Superior Court Judge Samuel McAdam ordered Woodland Biomass Power to pay $4.22 million for penalties, costs, and remediation, as a result of a civil settlement reached in an environmental protection action filed in Yolo County by the District Attorneys of Yolo, Solano and San Joaquin counties.

Woodland Biomass Power operates a biomass facility in Woodland that burns wood fuel to produce electricity, and, in the process, generates ash. For years, Woodland Biomass Power claimed its ash was non-hazardous. This claim, however, was supported with faulty methods, and at times, falsified summaries of the test results for its ash. The company’s own test results have shown that much of its ash had elevated levels of dioxins and constituted hazardous waste because of high levels of pH and high concentrations of contaminants like arsenic, lead, and copper. Woodland Biomass Power also provided these falsified records to various governmental entities, individuals, and companies.

During the years it relied on falsified test-result summaries, Woodland Biomass Power caused tens of thousands of tons of ash—some of which was hazardous waste—to be disposed of on properties not authorized to receive hazardous waste, including agricultural lands in Yolo County.  At least one location was within 1000 feet of the City of Davis.

“As the Yolo County Public Health Officer and a Yolo County resident, I am thankful for the great work of the District Attorney’s office and other experts involved in this case,” said Yolo County Health Officer Ronald W. Chapman, MD, MPH. “When we hear about an environmental contamination we immediately worry about our health and that of our family and friends. After consultation with the Department of Toxic Substances Control and the Yolo-Solano Air Quality Management District, I believe the health risk to myself, my family and my friends from these past practices is very low regarding soil contaminations. Regarding air contamination, we do not have information to assess public health risk. Air sampling was not done during the use of the contaminated material. Going forward, I feel assured measures are being put in place to eliminate future risk.”

“The investigation into the unlawful hazardous-waste disposal activity in this case was extremely complex and time consuming, taking many years to complete. The conduct being perpetrated by the defendant here might have easily gone undetected in many jurisdictions. Fortunately, Yolo County has remained steadfastly committed to environmental investigations like this which uncovered the fraud and the hazardous dumping practice and brought it to a stop,” said District Attorney Reisig. “Companies like Woodland Biomass Power need to be held accountable to ensure that hazardous waste is disposed of safely and responsibly.”

The District Attorney’s Office received significant assistance in this investigation from the California Department of Toxic Substances Control, Yolo County Environmental Health Department, and Yolo-Solano Air Quality Management District. Other District Attorneys’ Offices throughout the state also assisted in the investigation.

Under the settlement, Woodland Biomass Power must pay $2.12 million in civil penalties, $850,000 to reimburse for the costs of investigation, and over $1.25 million to remediate the one site where testing has indicated hazardous materials are present in concentrations that exceed regulatory thresholds. The company must also implement improved ash-management procedures designed to prevent future violations of hazardous-waste laws.

Woodland Biomass Power has been cooperative in the investigation since the prosecution team discovered the fraud in early 2016 and, since that time, the company has re-evaluated its plant operations and implemented numerous improvements to its ash management practices.  If you have any questions or concerns regarding this case, please contact our Environmental Protection Unit at enviro@yolocounty.org.

The Near Davis Location - Lillard Ranch, County Road 102, Davis CA

The Near Davis Location - Lillard Ranch, County Road 102, Davis CA


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: What other agencies were involved in the investigation of this case?

A: The Yolo County District Attorney’s Office received significant assistance from the California Department of Toxic Substances Control, Yolo County Environmental Health Department, and Yolo-Solano Air Quality Management District. The Solano County District Attorney’s Office, San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office, the State Water Resources Control Board, and several Regional Water Quality Control Boards also assisted in the investigation.

Q: The press release says Woodland Biomass Power was disposing of its ash on agricultural lands in Yolo County. Where are these agricultural lands located?

A: Woodland Biomass Power disposed of thousands of tons of ash on an agricultural property that lies just north of Wild Horse Gold Course in Davis. This property is known as the Lillard Ranch and has been fallow since before the ash was placed on the property.

Q: Does the disposal of ash on the Lillard Ranch pose a material health risk to neighboring communities?

A: The Lillard Ranch does not pose a known material health risk to neighboring communities. Soil immediately south of where the ash was deposited on the Lillard Ranch was sampled and tested, and the test results for this soil were within normal background levels for soil. Soil underneath ash deposits was also sampled and tested, and these results were also within normal background levels for soil. That said, as long as the contaminated ash is present, there remains a potential risk of exposure. To eliminate this risk, the judgment in this case requires Woodland Biomass Power to remediate the Lillard Ranch. You can stay informed by checking your city’s water quality report and the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office website for more information.

Q: When did Woodland Biomass Power dispose of ash in Yolo County?

A: As relevant to this investigation, Woodland Biomass Power disposed of ash in Yolo County from 2010 to 2013. The Yolo County District Attorney’s Office also filed suit against Woodland Biomass Power in 1993 based on the company’s earlier unlawful disposal of ash in Yolo County.

Q: Why did the owner of the Lillard Ranch allow ash to be placed on the property?

A: To our knowledge, Woodland Biomass Power or its agent represented that the company’s ash would improve the ranch’s soil, and the ranch’s owner was unaware that the ash contained contaminants at hazardous-waste levels.

Q: Can wood ash from a biomass facility ever be beneficially used on agricultural property?

A: Yes. Wood ash can be a valuable agricultural soil amendment used to adjust pH and supply nutrients such as potassium, phosphorus, calcium, and magnesium. Although some of the ash in this case exhibited hazardous-waste characteristics, that is not true of all wood ash. Wood ash can be used as a safe, effective, and economical soil amendment providing increased crop yields at low cost for farmers.

Q: Will Woodland Biomass Power be removing hazardous-waste ash from the Lillard Ranch?

A: Yes. Under the judgment, Woodland Biomass Power will be required to clean up the Lillard Ranch. The cleanup should be completed by the end of June 2017.

Q: Will the Lillard Ranch be a health risk after the cleanup?

A: Based on consultation with the Yolo County Health Officer, the Department of Toxic Substances Control, and others, we do not believe the Lillard Ranch will pose a health risk after the cleanup. The cleanup was designed to remove hazardous-waste contaminants and ensure that the property could be used for agricultural production.

Q: Will residents living in the area need to take any precautions during the cleanup?

A: Residents living in the area do not need to take any precautions during the cleanup. Procedures are being taken at the clean-up site to protect the workers and surrounding areas.

Q: Will the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office be taking any additional actions in this matter?

A: A criminal investigation in this matter is ongoing.

Q: Who can I contact for further information?

Department of Toxic Substances Control contact: Jorge Moreno (916) 327-4383

Yolo-Solano Air Quality Management District contact: Mat Ehrhardt (530) 757-3673

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