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Planned GEO Prison in Adelanto, California Faces Sewage Hurdles

In January 2011, the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board called for a cease and desist order to prevent the City of Adelanto, California from establishing any new sewer connections. The board said that Adelanto’s water utility authority had created a significant health risk by exceeding the capacity of its wastewater plant, resulting in “constant unauthorized discharges” of untreated sewage.

Adelanto officials worked to stop the sewer connection ban, claiming it would slow the area’s already lagging economic growth and take away the very resources needed to correct the problem. Especially in danger would be the plans of GEO Group, the nation’s second-largest private prison company, to build a 650-bed facility in Adelanto that would create 170 jobs. Another company, D.R. Horton, was also planning to build 83 houses in the city – presumably to market to prison employees.

“I recognize that a connection ban can have adverse economic effects. But the fact is that they currently don’t have a capacity to treat the water that they currently receive,” said Chuck Curtis, the board’s supervising engineer. “By continuing to add additional connections and additional discharge to the sewer system, the threat of additional disinfected waste discharges off of their property only increases.”

Adelanto officials complained that they weren’t being given credit for diligently working to solve the wastewater problems. “They claim we’ve done nothing. We’ve done a whole lot and I’ve got the bills to prove it,” said Adelanto City Manager Jim Hart.

Notwithstanding the proposed sewer connection ban, the city moved ahead with GEO’s private prison proposal and managed to avoid the ban in March and May.

As of March 2011, GEO was close to finalizing plans for its 650-bed facility in Adelanto, in addition to a 650-bed immigration detention prison at the former city-owned Adelanto Community Correctional Facility, which the company had purchased for $28 million. ICE announced a contract with the City of Adelanto to house immigration detainees at the latter prison in late May 2011, and the city contracted with GEO Group to operate the facility.

GEO intends to expand the immigration prison to 1,300 beds by August 2012, which will further strain the city’s sewer capacity. In October 2011 the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board backed off its threat of a cease and desist order, acknowledging improvements, though water quality control officials said they would be monitoring the city’s sewer capacity and wastewater discharges.

Clearly Adelanto had a sewer problem before GEO Group announced plans to build and expand correctional facilities in the city, but stresses to infrastructure and utilities are one of the often-overlooked costs to a community when adding a prison.

Sources:,, Associated Press

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