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Opus One Winery Fined for Accidental Grape Waste Discharge

The incident occurred when rain water fell into a container filled with pomace and a pump, accidentally left on, pumped an unknown amount of red liquid into the Napa River
by Kerana Todorov
September 26, 2017

Opus One Winery has agreed to pay nearly $12,000 for accidentally dumping an unknown quantity of grape waste in the Napa River during last year’s harvest, according to court records and the parties involved.

The incident occurred on Oct. 16, 2016, when rain water fell into a container filled with pomace, according to the winery and court records. The red liquid overflowed into a storm drain system. A pump, which had been accidentally left on, then pumped an unknown amount of red liquid into the Napa River, according to the winery.

The matter was reported when a bystander at the Oakville Cross Road bridge observed red color in the Napa River. No one knows how much wine waste entered the river.

“It was an inadvertent thing,” Opus One CEO David Pearson said Monday, as he discussed the one-time incident. Opus One has accepted responsibility, he said.

Under an agreement with the Napa County District Attorney Office, the Oakville winery contributes $5,000 to Friends of the Napa River, an organization that protects the river; pays another $5,000 in civil penalties; and reimburses about $1,860 to offset the costs of investigating the incident. A Napa County Superior Court Judge signed the final judgment Sept. 21. The document was filed Monday.

Napa County Deputy District Attorney Justin Lee said the winery has been cooperative.

Pearson said he likes the idea that Opus One was allowed to donate $5,000 donation to an environmental organization. Opus One takes its land stewardship responsibilities “very seriously,” he said. The October 2016 mistake was “frustrating,” Pearson said.

Opus One was among the wineries participating in restoring the banks of the Napa River and another nearby creek.

The storm water system has been re-designed so that rain water percolates into the vineyard, Pearson said.

The investigating agencies into the October 2016 incident included the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and Napa County’s Planning, Building and Environmental Services Department.

In the meantime, Opus One winery continues renovation work at the winery. The project, which includes a bigger barrel room, additional office and tasting space, should be completed in 2019.

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