Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, WaterTags , , , Leave a comment on Massive dumping of fracking wastewater into aquifers shows Big Oil’s power in California

Massive dumping of fracking wastewater into aquifers shows Big Oil’s power in California

Dan Bacher, SAN DIEGO FREE PRESS
As the oil industry spent record amounts on lobbying in Sacramento and made record profits, documents obtained by the Center for Biological Diversity reveal that almost 3 billion gallons of oil industry wastewater were illegally dumped into Central California aquifers that supply drinking water and irrigation water for farms.
The Center said the wastewater entered the aquifers through at least nine injection disposal wells used by the oil industry to dispose of waste contaminated with fracking (hydraulic fracturing) fluids and other pollutants.
The documents also reveal that Central Valley Regional Water Quality Board testing found high levels of arsenic, thallium and nitrates, contaminants sometimes found in oil industry wastewater, in water-supply wells near these waste-disposal operations.
The illegal dumping took place in a state where Big Oil is the most powerful corporate lobby and the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) is the most powerful corporate lobbying organization, alarming facts that the majority of the public and even many environmental activists are not aware of.
Read more via Massive Dumping of Fracking Wastewater into Aquifers Shows Big Oil’s Power in California.

Posted on Categories Land Use, WaterTags , , , , Leave a comment on New septic regulations on the way for Sonoma County

New septic regulations on the way for Sonoma County

Brenda Adelman, THE SONOMA COUNTY GAZETTE
The North Coast Regional Water Board is gearing up to develop new septic regulations to satisfy requirements of AB 885, a controversial regulation in the making for over ten years and finally approved a few years ago. AB 885’s intent is to clean up waterways allegedly polluted by failing septics, and its implementation in our area relies on their assessment of bacterial problems in the lower Russian River, a process to be completed within two years.
The Russian River Watershed Protection Committee supports requirements that provide assurance of environmental protections that address health concerns and beneficial uses, yet appropriately distributes responsibility for identified problems. Much of the human caused degradation in the lower river occurs upstream of Forestville, including the Laguna, and all should be clearly identified and addressed.
Besides septics, Regional Board staff has identified many other sources of bacterial contamination. The nature and scope of the problem must be scientifically analyzed and all contributing sources must be adequately quantified. To the extent that septics are culpable for polluting river and streams, it is extraordinarily important that governmental agencies assist our community of modest incomes to arrange funding and administrative oversight to fix the problems and the public must be fully engaged in the process at all stages.
We live in an extraordinarily fragile environment that includes a major flood plain, steep slopes with high landslide potential, huge heritage trees, soils with high ground water and liquefaction potential, and more. Conventional sewers are inappropriate in this environment and are far more expensive to construct than in flat plains.
Read more via New sewer regulations on the way for Sonoma County.

Posted on Categories Sustainable Living, WaterTags , , , , , , Leave a comment on Water Board developing a plan to clean up disease-causing bacteria in the Russian River

Water Board developing a plan to clean up disease-causing bacteria in the Russian River

Rebecca Fitzgerald & Charles Reed, SONOMA COUNTY GAZETTE
Each year, the Russian River plays host to tens of thousands of residents and visitors who swim and recreate along its length, which extends from Redwood Valley, North of Ukiah to Jenner, where the river empties into the Pacific Ocean.
At the same time, the Russian River area is home to hundreds of thousands of human inhabitants and domesticated animals, who produce waste. Most of this domestic waste is collected, treated, beneficially reused, or discharged at a time and in a manner that is protective of public health and water quality. Much of this domestic waste is also controlled at its source by individuals through responsible personal behavior and good sanitary practices.
Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Water monitoring samples from the river show widespread contamination with bacteria and indicators of human waste, which pose a threat to the health of the river ecosystem and the people who visit it.
Reliance on existing regulatory actions and individual behavior is sometimes not sufficient to prevent domestic waste from being released in an uncontrolled manner into the environment. Once released, this material, which may include disease-causing microorganisms, inevitably makes its way to creeks and finally to the Russian River where it adversely impacts water quality, impairs the beneficial uses of creeks and the River, and presents a public health risk to individuals who come in contact with contaminated waters.
Often, the uncontrolled sources of waste are the result of the systemic failure to address human societal challenges like homelessness. Other times, contamination is the result of legacy practices, such as obsolete, substandard wastewater treatment systems. The simple lack of public awareness about the impacts of individual actions can also affect water quality.
Regardless of the root cause of contamination, it is the obligation of public agencies responsible for the protection of water quality and public health, to take actions to correct the condition. For these actions to be truly successfully and long-lasting, there must be participation, cooperation, and commitment from supporting state and local agencies, parties to whom corrective actions are assigned, and the general public.
Read much more via Troubled Waters: Water Board Developing a Plan to Cleanup Disease-causing Bacteria in the Russian River.

Posted on Categories Sustainable Living, WaterTags , , , Leave a comment on Major manure cleanup in northwest Santa Rosa – paid for by ratepayers

Major manure cleanup in northwest Santa Rosa – paid for by ratepayers

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
At a former dairy northwest of Santa Rosa, not far from the banks of Windsor Creek, the world’s largest pooper scoopers are hard at work.
In what has got to be one of the world’s dirtiest jobs, excavators and bulldozers are clearing two massive lagoons of untold tons of sloppy brown sludge.
One dozer, half-sunk in the muck last week, pushed load after load of the stinky ooze toward a spot where an excavator, perched precariously on the berm above, scooped it up with a huge shovel, swiveled 180 degrees and deposited it on a nearby field to dry.
For decades dairyman Marvin Nuñes stored the manure from up to 600 prized Holsteins in these two ponds at the northern end of his 177-acre Ocean View Dairy, nestled between the Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport and the Russian River.
Now the messy cleanup operation is underway, funded not by the property owners, but by the ratepayers in Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park, Sebastopol and Cotati.
Read more via Major manure cleanup in northwest Santa Rosa (w/video) | The Press Democrat.

Posted on Categories Land Use, WaterTags , , Leave a comment on Efforts to clean up Russian River could impact rural septic systems

Efforts to clean up Russian River could impact rural septic systems

Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

North Coast water quality officials are seeking public input on efforts to reduce contamination of the Russian River watershed through a plan that’s likely to have broad impacts on rural residents dependent on septic systems for waste disposal.

Studies indicate the river and its tributary creeks are polluted with bacteria from human and animal feces traced to a variety of sources — from dairies to homeless encampments, wastewater treatment facilities to beachgoers using bushes for toilets, according to staff from the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board.

But longtime concerns about older, on-site septic systems that may be permitting untreated waste to reach local waterways means remediation strategies will doubtless have implications for rural homeowners with septic systems, especially in lower Russian River communities like Monte Rio and Camp Meeker, said board Executive Officer Matt St. John.

“We’re still evaluating what improvements are needed, but I think what we can say at this point is that (in) areas with a high density of on-site septic systems, we’re seeing significant contribution of fecal indicator bacteria,” St. John said.

Stretches of the Russian River in Healdsburg and from Guerneville to Monte Rio, as well as Santa Rosa, Atascadero, Dutch Bill creeks and an unnamed tributary near Healdsburg’s Fitch Mountain, are all listed as impaired waters under the federal Clean Water Act, and have been since 2002, because of high levels of bacterial concentration indicative of fecal contamination, the water quality board said.

via Efforts to clean up Russian River could impact | The Press Democrat.

Posted on Categories Land Use, WaterTags , , Leave a comment on Landfill neighbors sue over compost operation

Landfill neighbors sue over compost operation

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Neighbors of Sonoma County’s central landfill who threatened two months ago to file a lawsuit over wastewater from compost piles polluting Stemple Creek have made good on their promise.

The group Renewed Efforts of Neighbors Against Landfill Expansion, or RENALE, filed a federal Clean Water Act suit recently against three entities involved in the 25-acre composting operation atop the landfill.

The goal of the suit is to convince a judge to do what other government agencies are either unwilling or unable to do — shut down the compost operation to protect the creek, said Roger Larsen, a resident of the Happy Acres subdivision on Mecham Road west of Cotati.

“Despite the fact they know they are polluting Stemple Creek, they decided to continue to do so,” Larsen said. “Hopefully, this suit with stop them from polluting Stemple Creek anymore.”

via Landfill neighbors sue over compost operation | The Press Democrat.

Posted on Categories Land Use, Sustainable Living, WaterTags , , , Leave a comment on Shutdown of Sonoma County's compost facility averted

Shutdown of Sonoma County's compost facility averted

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

A shutdown of the composting facility at Sonoma County’s central landfill was averted Wednesday when the public agency in charge of the program voted to continue trying to find a way to solve the water pollution problems plaguing the site.

The alternative facing the 10-member board of the Sonoma County Waste Management Agency was to begin winding down operations before the rainy season and start hauling to other counties the 100,000 tons of yard waste and food scraps collected from residents’ bins every year.

“Do we want to just stop and say, ‘No — no more compost at this point and 100 percent out-haul’?” asked Healdsburg Mayor Jim Wood, the board chairman. “Or do we want to continue working on a plan?”

He said efforts by the agency’s staff and others to find a solution had been “extraordinary” and he felt the work should be allowed to go on. State water quality regulators have tentatively endorsed a plan aimed at minimizing wastewater in the short term while efforts to find a new site for the operation move forward.

via Shutdown of Sonoma County's compost facility averted | The Press Democrat.

Posted on Categories Land Use, Water, WildlifeTags , , , Leave a comment on Disputed Roblar quarry project wins court fight

Disputed Roblar quarry project wins court fight

Angela Hart, PETALUMA ARGUS-COURIER

A state appellate court has handed quarry developer John Barella a resounding victory in his decade-long bid to build a controversial project off Roblar Road west of Cotati.

A three-judge panel has upheld Sonoma County’s 2010 approval of the 65-acre rock quarry and reversed a lower court ruling on all counts, dealing a final blow to opponents’ three-year fight to halt the project on environmental grounds.

Barella, the former owner of North Bay Construction, praised the decision while voicing frustration with the lengthy environmental review and court fight needed to clear the way for his $60 million project.

Planning for the project is set to start this week, and ground work on the site could get underway within a year, said Steve Butler, Barella’s attorney.

via Disputed quarry project wins court fight | Petaluma Argus Courier | Petaluma360.com.

Posted on Categories Land Use, WaterTags , , Leave a comment on Sonoma County landfill neighbors sue over pollution

Sonoma County landfill neighbors sue over pollution

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Neighbors of Sonoma County’s Central Landfill are threatening to file a federal Clean Water Act lawsuit over the pollution they say has been running off compost piles and fouling surrounding waterways for years.

Residents of nearby Happy Acres subdivision say they’ll sue by mid-August unless they can reach a settlement with the county over the wastewater they say is generated by the 35-acre compost operation located at the northern end of the landfill.

“Who would want to live next to a compost facility that’s spewing pollution into the adjacent creek?” said Attorney Michael Lozeau, who represents the group Renewed Efforts of Neighbors Against Landfill Expansion, or RENALE.

via Sonoma County landfill neighbors sue over pollution | The Press Democrat.

Posted on Categories Land Use, Sustainable Living, WaterTags , , , Leave a comment on Sonoma County composting program faces uncertain future

Sonoma County composting program faces uncertain future

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Sonoma County’s 21-year-old composting program could be scrapped if water quality regulators don’t back off a threat to impose stiff fines for runoff that has been fouling a creek near the county’s central landfill for years.

The composting operation, which sits atop the landfill but operates independently, has until Oct. 1 to clean up its act or face millions in penalties in the event a major storm overwhelms the undersized storage ponds at the 25-acre site.

But Sonoma County Waste Management Agency officials say their solution — construction of a massive stormwater holding pond at the north end of the Mecham Road landfill — can’t possibly be designed, permitted and built by October. They say they need relief from the proposed deadline and fines before they can move forward.

If regulators don’t give them either, they warn they may have to shut down the composting operation and begin hauling yard waste out of the county, much like the county did with its garbage when the central landfill was closed by regulators in 2005.

via Sonoma County composting program faces uncertain future | Petaluma360.com | Petaluma Argus-Courier | Petaluma, CA.