California state regulators have fined Hilmar Cheese Co. $4 million for pollution violations.

The state Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board announced the fine last week. Hilmar Cheese must pay the fine by Feb. 26 unless it appeals the penalty to the water agency's board of directors.

The fine is the largest ever levied by the Board. It was announced on the same day that Chuck Ahlem, co-owner of Hilmar Cheese, stepped down from his post as undersecretary of agriculture to focus on wastewater issues at the plant.

For more from the Merced (Calif.) Sun-Star, follow this link. Merced Sun-Star