Napa Valley Ca. – On Monday Feb 13, 2020 former Upper Valley Disposal Service/Clover Flat Landfill employee Jose Garibay Jr. filed a wrongful termination/retaliation complaint with the Ca. Department of Labor related to this privately owned garbage company operating in the world famous wine region of the Napa Valley.
Garibay, who worked for the family owned garbage company in the upper Napa Valley from 2019 – 2022 also recently submitted information, documentation and photographs to the Ca. Regional Water Quality Board, Napa County District Attorney, OSHA, the EPA, the Ca. Attorney General and other local, state and federal agencies on potentially unlawful practices related to fires, water contamination and other risks and impacts to employees and community health and safety from Upper Valley Disposal Services/Clover Flat Landfill (UVDS/CFL). These operations are owned by the Pestoni family of St. Helena, also owners of the Pestoni Family Winery.
The matter has also been referred to the Consulate of Mexico as a majority of the workforce at UVDS/CFL are of Latino background.
Garibay was released from employment in April of 2022 with no explanation. Garibay started as a driver and was promoted to management and provided with onsite housing. He contends he was terminated because he was recognizing and trying to rectify unsafe practices within the company, but the company did not want to update processes or spend money addressing the problems.
His complaint to the Ca. Department of Labor was accompanied by a suggested settlement amount of $150 million dollars in restitution to employees and community members who were exposed to contaminated materials and leachate (garbage wastewater), as well as hazardous circumstances from flame, smoke and methane off gassing from ongoing fires including the Glass Fire, a large wildfire of 2020 that burned significant amounts of the Napa Valley, including the Clover Flat Landfill facility.
Former St. Helena mayor Geoff Ellsworth, a vocal critic of Upper Valley Disposal Service/Clover Flat Landfill stated, “The community and employees are fortunate someone with the character and courage of Garibay was willing to step forward. The continued operations of Upper Valley Disposal Service and Clover Flat Landfill put everyone here at great risk”.
Ellsworth agrees that significant restitution at least in the range of $150 million dollars is owed to the community and employees for decades of impacts, including the fact this local family owned monopoly company failed to pay industry standard franchise fees back to the cities they contracted with for decades.
“They were given sweetheart deals and allowed to operate here with no competitive bidding for nearly 60 years, so the onus was on them to maintain industry standards, which they clearly did not.” said Ellsworth. Ellsworth has also submitted these concerns to the California State Auditor.
Garibay also contends he and other employees were exposed to contaminated garbage wastewater (leachate) piped through employee housing that was connected to the same water system as the garbage company’s wastewater pond system. This contamination occurred in conjunction with large scale pumping of leachate wastewater into the vineyards of the Pestoni Family Winery.
“Federal and state agencies need to come look at these problems immediately,” said Garibay Jr. “The mismanagement from these companies and poor treatment of workers, residents and the environment of the beautiful Napa Valley is beyond belief. It is affecting the working people and high valuable real estate too.
Garibay Jr. urges that workers and residents to come forward and demand these matters be looked at in a court of law.
“The tourists and many people who live here are not even aware this is going on because the company puts out misleading information and fail to report fires and hide intentional and unlawful water contamination through wastewater discharges. The employees are scared into being silent about fires and water contamination events so they are not being correctly reported to the oversight agencies at the direction of the management. Some of the authorities know about these problems and need to do more to fix the situation”.
Currently these fire and contamination prone waste sites operate in close proximity of thousands of Napa Valley residents, workers and tourism visitors in the upper Napa Valley, and are surrounded by high value residential and commercial real estate, including what is consistently among the highest value agricultural land in the United States.
While UVDS/CFL may be on the cusp of a potential sale to Waste Connections, a much larger company with more extensive resources, concerns remain that the current problematic management and problematic waste locations at Clover Flat Landfill and UVDS Whitehall Lane near St. Helena will remain active, leaving employees and the community vulnerable on matters of both fires and water/soil contamination.