CONCORD -- An operations manager at a North Concord food manufacturer allegedly manipulated monitoring data reported to the Central Contra Costa Sanitary District, possibly masking environmental violations and prompting a sanitary district study of the facility that uncovered more than 100 violations within a little more than a year.
The data manipulation at Caffe Classico Foods, uncovered in September 2011, could go back as far as 2007, meaning the number of violations could be much higher, a sanitary district official said.
The details of the violations at Caffe Classico Foods are spelled out in a settlement agreement made public this week. The sanitary district's board was to receive an update on the agreement at its meeting Thursday.
The producer of gelato and sorbet products came under the district's microscope in September 2011 after its CEO admitted to officials that it manipulated data.
The operations manager, not named in documents, was believed to have run extra water to flush out the system at the 2500 Annalisa Drive facility, which would mask the facility's true wastewater discharge, according to Environmental Compliance Superintendent Tim Potter, the aforementioned sanitary district official. The manipulation would take place in the days before district inspectors would come to observe sampling, Potter said.
As a result, the district began monthly inspections of the facility, which uncovered 129 violations over a period of more than one year. Most of the violations were related to an environmental code that limits the amount of oil and grease companies can release into the district's pipelines. Too much of either can clog pipelines, Potter said.
Potter said that number of violations makes Caffe Classico one of the biggest violators in his 20-plus years with the sanitary district.
Caffe Classico Foods faced a $75,000 penalty, but the district has offered to suspend $65,000 of that if the food manufacturer meets the requirements of the settlement agreement. The agreement includes requirements that the company review and update its standard operating procedures, conduct employee training and achieve zero discharge of process wastewater by Feb. 28.
Larry Leser, the CEO of Caffe Classico Foods, declined to discuss the data manipulation, but said his company is working to comply with the sanitary district's regulations.
"We've made significant improvements in our processes in order to comply," said Leser.
David DeBolt covers Concord and Clayton. Contact him at 925-943-8048. Follow him at Twitter.com/daviddebolt.