Winery’s wastewater dump in the Merced was bad for fish, and the bottom line

Branches with small white flower in the foreground; in the background, a blur of moving water.
The Merced River in the Yosemite Valley.
(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

Modesto-based E. & J. Gallo Winery, which produces the popular Barefoot and Apothic wines, among many others, will pay a fine of nearly $380,000 for discharging more than 90,000 gallons of wastewater into the Merced River last summer.

The discharge, a mix of wastewater and irrigation-well water, was reported to the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board on Aug. 9.

The board investigated the discharge and found that the water had “elevated levels of potassium, organic matter and salinity” that could threaten the health of fish and other life in the river.


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“Discharges like these put the health of our waterways at risk, and the penalty reflects the seriousness of this violation,” Clay Rodgers, assistant executive officer of the control board, said in a release. “Gallo has also agreed to steps to prevent this from happening again in the future.”

Along with paying the fine, Gallo has installed additional equipment in its pipelines to prevent wastewater from entering the waterway.

Half of the fine will be used for an environmental project in Merced County; the rest will be paid to the State Water Pollution Cleanup and Abatement Account.

E. & J. Gallo Winery, founded in Modesto, owns nearly 100 wine labels.

The company did not respond Tuesday to a request for comment.