State wastewater rules impact California wineries

On Behalf of Griswold LaSalle Cobb Dowd & Gin LLP

Many things come to mind when one thinks of California. The state’s weather and natural resources make it an ideal place to live, visit and build a company. One notable industry that has settled in the state is wine. Vineyards have made their home in the state due to the ideal conditions for growing grapes and producing wine; however, the wine industry is faced with specific regulations when it comes to all the details that go into growing grapes and producing wine. Thus, it is imperative for those in the industry to understand how agricultural laws could impact their business.

Wastewater rules

Recent changes in the state of California will impact hundreds of wineries in the state. For the first time, these wineries will be governed by the statewide wastewater processing rules. As a result, this will likely increase production costs. The goal of this is to increase the protections of the waterways in the state. Additionally, this will provide consistency for vintners throughout the state.

This new order was recently finalized, and it has set up guidelines for the wastewater processing at the majority of the 3,600 bonded wineries in the state of California. The order does provide flexibility for how and when a winery will be subjected to the rules that are designed to protect waterways and groundwater from harmful contaminants.

New requirements

The new order increases reporting requirements as well as placing a cap on the amount of processed water wineries can dispose of through either land application or subsurface disposal. Additionally, it sets specific requirements for both water treatments systems and ponds, while also requiring extensive groundwater monitoring for the larger wineries in the state.

Currently, a three-year window for permitting has been set by state water regulators. There is another five years allowed for wineries to become compliant with the new order. While this gives wineries a good amount of time to make necessary changes, one major concern is the costs associated with making these changes. And if wineries are not compliant by this set timeframe, they risk the chance of facing fines for non-compliance.

Because environmental laws can alter or be added via state and federal laws, it is important that businesses understand how their current or future operations could be impacted. Failing to comply with these regulations could negatively impact the business. Therefore, it is important that one takes the time to understand the situation and explore their options and rights in the matter.


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