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Release Date: 9/13/2000
Contact Information: Leo Kay, U.S. EPA, (415)-744-2201, Walter Wong, Monterey County Health Dept., (831)-755-4539, Ken August, California Dept. of Health Services, (916)-657-3064

     Case is first of its kind for Safe Drinking Water Act

     SAN FRANCISCO   In an unprecedented decision, a U.S. district judge recently granted motions under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act against several family-owned Monterey County drinking water companies that hold the owners personally liable for endangering the health of more than 20,000 local residents.
     The alleged violations are against Robert and Natholyn (Patricia) Adcock and the 11 drinking water supply systems that they own in Monterey County, the largest of which, Alco, serves 18,000 people in Salinas.

     The decision marks the first time in the country that the corporate owners of a drinking water system have been found personally liable for violations under the public water system proovisions of the Safe Drinking Water Act.  The Adcocks could face fines up to $27,500 per day per violation.

     The case, filed in the U.S. District Court in San Jose in 1997 on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, alleges that the defendants deliberately falsified lab reports for public water systems submitted to the state and Monterey County from 1991 through 1994 in order to hide violations.
     On Aug. 23, the court issued an order granting three government motions, which included:
          liability of corporate defendants for bacteriological violations;

          liability of corporate defendants for lead and copper violations;

          liability of the individual defendants for both bacteriological and lead and copper

     "Customers of these Adcock-owned systems faced a health risk when bacteria was detected in their water supply.  They faced another risk when the Adcocks hid these violations from state and county health officials," said John Rothman, senior attorney for the EPA's Pacific Southwest Office.  "Public water systems must not be allowed to make unilateral decisions about public health."

     Under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, water providers are required to submit regular reports that measure for 90 separate contaminants.  Failure to meet these requirements can result in contaminants and water borne diseases such as E. coli entering a water supply system, going undetected, and endangering public health.

     The district court will discuss the penalty phase of the case at the next hearing in San Jose Oct. 10.  Although a civil penalty has yet to be determined, the federal government will ask for  civil penalties that could be as much as $27,500 per violation, per day.  In addition, the court will address the government's claim that the water companies and the Adcocks have fraudulently transferred assets.
     The Adcock-owned drinking water systems continue to operate in the Monterey/Salinas area, but under close scrutiny by the California Department of Health Services drinking water program and the Monterey County Health Department.  In 1994, the state ordered the Adcock companies to test their water at a lab that is not family owned or tied to the Adcocks in any way. Throughout the investigation these agencies have worked closely with the EPA and the U.S. Department of Justice to uncover violations at the Adcock-owned water systems.

Affected Adcock owned public water systems in 1997:
                                        Alco Water Service (Salinas)            serving 18,000 customers
                                   Toro Water System                  serving 1,100 customers
                                   Normco Water System                serving 510 customers
                                        San Jerardo Water System                serving 249 customers
                                        Pine Canyon Div. of Alco Water Service  serving 210 customers
                                             Moss Landing Harbor District Water           serving 177 customers
                                   Wildwood Water System              serving 166 customers
                                        Langley/Valle Pacifico Water System     serving 81 customers
                                        Blackie Road Water system #18           serving 60 customers
                                   Vierra Estates Water Systems       serving 60 customers
                                        Vierra Canyon Water system #30          serving 36 customers
                              Total served 20,649