San Joaquin River DOTMDL -- Technical Working Group

Results of farm water-monitoring program murky

Stockton Record - June 24, 2005
By Dana Nichols

Results of farm water-monitoring program murky
Stockton Record 6/24/05
By Dana Nichols, staff writer

SACRAMENTO -- A 2-year-old experiment with letting Central Valley farmers monitor their own water pollution is producing reams of paper but no clear evidence of who is responsible for the pollution or how it can be stopped.

Central Valley water pollution enforcers still don't know which farmers are signed up to cooperate with pollution monitoring and which aren't, according to a report Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board staff presented Thursday to a joint meeting with the State Water Resources Control Board.

And the reports that farmers' groups -- known as coalitions -- have filed show that the groups often failed to do follow-ups when they found toxic hot spots in waterways, according to the regional board.

"Staff has begun to work with coalitions to clarify expectations," said Margie Lopez-Read, senior environmental scientist over the regional board's monitoring and assessment division.

Lopez-Read also said that some coalitions failed to test the mud at the bottom of waterways for pyrethroids, a new class of pesticides, while others only did infrequent tests for the poisons.

Christopher Cabaldon, a member of the regional board and mayor of West Sacramento, urged more vigorous enforcement against farmers who fail to comply with state water pollution law.

"Stay on this," he told Lopez-Read.

He said that the thousands of farmers who are playing by the rules and signing up for pollution-monitoring coalitions are doing so partly under the expectation that "something worse" would happen if they didn't.

"If they don't, something worse does have to happen," Cabaldon said.

Representatives of water quality coalitions who spoke at Thursday's meeting said it will take them years to figure out which fields might be responsible for the pollution they are finding in water samples.

"I am requesting patience," said Parry Klassen, who runs the East San Joaquin Water Quality Coalition that serves parts of Stanislaus and Merced counties and adjacent pieces of the Mother Lode.

John Meek runs the San Joaquin and Delta Water Quality Coalition that serves San Joaquin County and part of Contra Costa County. He said that slow responses by laboratories and other technical problems made it difficult to trace the chemicals that killed algae and water fleas in lab tests.

"Our results were mixed. We did have hits," Meek said. "We were really unable to determine what is causing the problem."

Bill Jennings of the Stockton-based water-pollution watchdog group Deltakeeper said the coalitions didn't find where the pollution is coming from because they did their tests in large rivers, rather than in farm drains as required.

"You adopted explicit requirements," Jennings told the regional board. "It is time to enforce them." #

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