California officials are investigating a wine spill from a Sonoma County winery that may have contaminated local waterways with thousands of gallons of cabernet sauvignon.
The spill occurred Jan. 22 after a 100,000-gallon blending tank-gallon tank sprang a leak at Rodney Strong Wine Estate in Healdsburg, California, according to Santa Rosa’s Press Democrat.
“We’re investigating what appears to be a mechanical failure, we’re not entirely sure of that at this point, but we’re deeply, deeply concerned about this leak and protecting our waterways here in Sonoma County,” said Christopher O’Gorman, a spokesperson for Rodney Strong, according to KGO of San Francisco.
A report by the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services says that more than 97,000 gallons of the wine spilled. The spill occurred when a two-foot oval door near the bottom of the tank somehow opened, the OEM report states, according to the Press Democrat.
The company, however, says it believes just 20-25% of the tank’s capacity leaked into a nearby creek and the Russian River, which flows behind the company’s vineyards.
Aerial video of the wine spill shows the creek and river running red with wine:
Much of the wine spilled into the vineyard’s drains and ponds, which became foamy with red wine on Thursday, San Francisco’s ABC 7 reported. The wine then migrated to the creek and river.
Local and state water quality and fish and wildlife officials are assessing whether the wine spill had any negative effects on the river’s ecosystem. The state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife said the company could face misdemeanor criminal charges and penalties, according to ABC 7.
Rodney Strong workers and a third-party contractor pumped wine out of the creek while volunteers with the Russian River Keeper environmental group have been keeping a watch on the waterway.
Don McEnhill, the executive director of the group, said that luckily the river is high this time of year so there is a “fair amount of dilution.” He said there have been no reports of fish kills, but the wine could harm some of the smaller life forms that the fish rely on for food.
The quantity of wine that spilled was enough to fill more than half a million bottles, according to the Press Democrat. ABC 7 reports that the cabernet that spilled sells for $27 a bottle, so it’s likely that the company lost several millions of dollars of inventory.
Beasley Allen investigates cases of water contamination linked to corporate pollution. Lawyers are currently representing city, town and county governments whose water systems are affected by PFC chemicals, as well as cases of groundwater contamination from leaking underground fuel storage tanks. Contact us if you feel you have a claim.