The court battle swirling around Lehman Hot Springs remains in limbo after a delayed ruling Monday. Meanwhile, a temporary restraining order continues to halt operations at the resort near Ukiah.
Lehman Hot Springs was placed under the order last month, demanding the resort stop pumping sewage into lagoons there, and pump existing sewage down to safer levels. The order, signed by Circuit Judge George Van Hoomissen, also required the resort to cease any discharges into Warm Spring Creek.
But Heidi Williams, an engineer with the state Department of Environmental Quality, later inspected the site and determined little had been done since the ruling. In a written statement filed in court, Williams said wastewater levels in the resort's lagoons remained dangerously high as late as June 2, and still posed "the potential to cause a catastrophic failure" should they breach and dump thousands of gallons of wastewater into Warm Spring Creek.
"In my professional opinion, defendants are still not complying with the temporary restraining order in that they are not pumping the wastewater from the lagoons,"?Williams wrote. She also noted observing wastewater still discharging into Warm Spring Creek.
Resort owner John P. Lucas has refuted the charges made by the state. In a hand-written letter to the court last month, Lucas said he was "quite certain"?he could refute most of the claims against him.
"The state has grossly overstated the situation, has negotiated in bad faith, has withheld evidence and is doing everything possible to destroy my business,"?Lucas wrote.
The motions still pending could hold Lucas and the resort in contempt of court, plus impose much stiffer penalties for noncompliance. Another order - still waiting for a judge's signature - could require the resort to drain all wastewater and sewage from both lagoons, and fence off areas possibly contaminated.
Monday's delay means the case likely won't return to court again until July, when Judge Daniel Hill returns to the bench. And during that time, the original restraining order remains in effect.
Lehman Hot Springs has clashed with state authorities and environmental regulations in the past. The DEQ has cited the facility for numerous illegal wastewater discharges, including in 1995, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2005 and 2006. The company that owns Lehman Hot Springs was indicted on felony water pollution charges last year. The DEQ also says the facility has operated without a permit since 2002.