Baykeeper Update

Better Pollution Controls Needed at C&H Sugar Refinery

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The C&H Sugar Refinery, which has repeatedly contaminated Carquinez Strait in ways that deplete oxygen available to fish and other aquatic life, needs tighter pollution controls, Baykeeper recently told regulators.

Baykeeper urged the Regional Water Quality Control Board to tighten controls as it renews C&H’s five-year permit to discharge wastewater, process water and runoff into Carquinez Strait. The strait connects Suisun Bay and San Pablo Bay, carrying water from the upper Delta into San Francisco Bay.

The refinery, located in Crockett on the strait’s south shore, has operated for over a century. It processes about 800,000 tons of raw cane sugar each year into various sugar products.

Over the past five years, C&H violated its discharge permit 39 times, robbing Carquinez Strait of oxygen and polluting the water with toxic chemicals, metals and bacteria.

Five days a week, the refinery draws in more than 20 million gallons of the strait’s water to cool down equipment. The heated water is then returned to the strait via a 155-foot-long diffuser. Each day, C&H also discharges about 500,000 gallons of wastewater from equipment washing, contaminated storm water and sewage, after the wastewater goes through an on-site treatment plant. Untreated storm water also flows off the facility, which is a concern because it may carry a load of pollutants from outdoor areas of the refinery.

Despite C&H’s long history of contaminating Carquinez Strait’s waters, the Regional Water Board’s draft permit loosens some requirements for the refinery to control its pollution. In response, Baykeeper urged the board to retain all provisions of the refinery’s previous permit that are more stringent than the proposed draft permit.

We also recommended that the board use the permit process to make sure C&H is installing improvements that will reduce its water pollution. In addition, we urged the Regional Water Board to:

  • Require C&H to measure its impact on aquatic life in Carquinez Strait;
  • Require additional protections if measurements show the refinery is making the water toxic for living creatures; and
  • Tighten pollution control requirements on the refinery’s storm water.

The Regional Water Board will consider adopting the draft permit at its meeting on October 10.

Baykeeper’s will continue to advocate for stronger regulations on San Francisco Bay’s industrial polluters. We are also working to curb industrial pollution in the Bay with our Bay-Safe Industry campaign, a multi-year effort to rein in widespread industrial storm water runoff contamination of the Bay.

Photo by Thomas Hawk (Flickr/CC)