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EPA Penalizes Ventura County Construction Company for Illegal Dumping Near Endangered Species

The Calleguas Creek runs about 30 miles long up near Oxnard, delivering freshwater to Mugu Lagoon, a partially enclosed body of water that is home to several endangered species.

In 2005 and 2006, Ventura County contractor Thomas Staben dumped 40,000 cubic yards of harmful materials - about 2,000 dump-truck loads worth - throughout five acres of the creek. He did not have the necessary permits to do so.

Now, several years later, friends of the contaminated creek got a jolt of good news when the EPA announced today that it was penalizing Staben and making him cough up several dump-truck loads of cash.

According to the EPA, Staben has agreed to pay a penalty of $225,000 for the illegal dumping and will spend at least $500,000 on restoring the creek.

Heralded by the EPA's Jared Blumenfeld, Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest, as "a win for the environment and for the local community," the agreement requires that Staben restore the five acres of damaged floodplain and create two more acres of vegetated area.

Staben, who has a history of noncompliance going back to 1989, apparently had been warned several times by the Army Corps of Engineers to stop dumping stuff into the Calleguas Creek.

According to the EPA, the impact of Staben's illegal dumping was anything but good:

The illegal fill substantially reduced the active floodplain in this portion of the creek, increasing potential flooding of adjacent properties and contributing to the bioaccumulation problems harmful to the health of endangered species and other wildlife in Mugu Lagoon.

In addition, Staben will also give $150,000 to the Ventura River Watershed Habitat Restoration Fund to help create nine new acres of habitat areas along the stream.

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