City of Santa Paula's Wastewater Treatment plant operated by OMI, Inc. was served with a search warrant on Wednesday Photo by Don Johnson

Search hits home as SP wastewater plant searched

March 14, 2003
Santa Paula News
By Peggy Kelly Santa Paula TimesA purported nationwide search hit home when the city’s wastewater treatment plant operator was the focus of a warrant and searched by a variety of local, state and federal agents.Operations Management International (OMI) has operated the city’s Corporation Yard wastewater treatment plant since 1998.According to City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz, the search warrant was served Wednesday morning and representatives of the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other agencies served the search warrant authorized by a Ventura County Superior Court judge.The search warrant was to “Obtain documents and computer files and to take samples from the wastewater treatment plant,” said Bobkiewicz. “It is the city’s understanding that similar search warrants were served on other wastewater treatment plants operated by OMI,” in Ventura County and elsewhere.OMI also operates the City of Fillmore’s wastewater treatment plant.Bobkiewicz said the city is “fully cooperating with the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office and the U.S. EPA in their investigation; however, the city knows of no reason for the search warrant or on-site investigation.”In addition, the DA and EPA “Has not made any previous requests for the information taken today or access to the treatment plant, nor has it informed the city of the reasons or nature of their investigation.”Reportedly, the agencies seized computers and records and had an on-site computer technician download the hard drives; they also took water samples in an effort that will determine the validity of OMI reporting, among other issues.The city’s wastewater treatment plan was constructed in 1938 and serves the approximately 29,000 residents of Santa Paula. Although state-of-the-art when built, the plant has been modified several times in order to keep up with the growth of the community as well as to meet federal and state wastewater treatment standards.The city has been exploring a partnership with Fillmore to share a construct a new joint wastewater facility.
At a January City Council meeting, the malodorous problems at wastewater treatment plant was the focus of a long discussion and presentation of longstanding problems as well as short-term solutions.An OMI representative told the council that after a flurry of summer complaints, it was discovered that some equipment was malfunctioning and was repaired, among other measures to address problems.

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