A U.S. District Court judge on Sunday ordered a Humboldt County construction company to pay more than $2 million in civil penalties for violating the federal Clean Water Act by allowing toxic pollutants to discharge into a tributary of the Mad River.

Kernen Construction Co., whose services include excavating, paving, concrete and metal fabrication and more, was ordered to pay $2,087,750 as a result of a civil enforcement action brought by Arcata nonprofit Californians for Alternatives to Toxics (CATs).

According to the ruling from U.S. District Court Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, Kernen founders and executives Scott Farley and Kurt Kernen admitted liability on all claims asserted in the complaint. Namely, CATs accused the company of allowing stormwater laden with pollutants to flow into Hall Creek, a salmon-bearing stream that flows into the Mad River. 

The company’s facility at 2350 Glendale Drive, between Blue Lake and McKinleyville, is used to manufacture and store rock aggregate products. It was previously used to store roofing shingles, scrap metal, soil and organic debris. When it rained in the area, the ruling states, the stormwater picked up pollutants such as lead, copper, aluminum, pentachlorophenol and zinc — all of which are harmful to animals and humans. Due to insufficient stormwater controls, the pollutant-laden water was allowed to flow into the adjacent waterway.

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