Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Sustainable Living, WaterTags , , Leave a comment on California allowed oilfield dumping into drinking water

California allowed oilfield dumping into drinking water

Ellen Knickmeyer, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Regulators in California, the country’s third-largest oil-producing state, have authorized oil companies to inject production fluids and waste into what are now federally protected aquifers more than 2,500 times, risking contamination of underground water supplies that could be used for drinking water or irrigation, state records show.
While some of the permits go back decades, an Associated Press analysis found that nearly half of those injection wells — 46 percent — were permitted or began injection in the last four years under Gov. Jerry Brown, who has pushed state oil and gas regulators to speed up the permitting process. And it happened despite warnings from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency since 2011 that state regulators were failing to do enough to shield groundwater reserves from the threat of oilfield pollution.
In California, "we need a big course correction. We need to get the system back in compliance," said Jared Blumenfeld, regional administrator for the EPA. "Californians expect their water is not being polluted by oil producers … This poses that very real danger."
The injections are convenient to oil companies because drilling brings up 13 gallons of wastewater for every gallon of petroleum. And one of the easiest disposal methods is simply to send that waste back underground.
The federal government is now demanding that state officials take immediate steps to find and deal with any contamination and end oil-industry operations in all aquifers set aside for families and farms.
Those water supplies are especially vital because California, the nation’s most populous state and its agricultural leader, is now entering the fourth year of a historic drought.
State officials acknowledge that regulators erred, citing confusion about the boundaries of aquifers and oil fields or long-standing state misinterpretations of federal water-safety requirements. The vast majority of the permits were granted after the federal Safe Drinking Water Act in 1974.
Read more via California allowed oilfield dumping into drinking water (w/video) | The Press Democrat.

Posted on Categories WaterTags , , Leave a comment on PG&E: Toxic tank in Santa Rosa best left alone

PG&E: Toxic tank in Santa Rosa best left alone

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
A huge underground tank full of toxic black sludge in downtown Santa Rosa should be left where it lies because it is too difficult to safely remove and poses little threat to neighboring Santa Rosa Creek, according to the Pacific Gas & Electric Co.
The utility has also concluded that the contamination on the site of its former manufactured gas plant is immobile enough that it does not need to install a costly barrier designed to prevent waste material from migrating toward the creek, arguing it would be too disruptive and unnecessary.
The hands-off approach outlined for the Santa Rosa City Council last week represents a departure from the aggressive cleanup efforts that PG&E has undertaken on the property in recent years, which have resulted in the removal of tons of similar material.
But PG&E’s environmental consultants say the new strategy is justified because years of water-quality monitoring data shows that neither groundwater in the area nor the creek are at risk of contamination.
“The stuff is immobile. It hasn’t gone anywhere over the past 100 years and we have over 25 years of data,” Max Reyhani, principal engineer with Terra Pacific Group, told the council. “I think that’s a pretty good indication of the stability of site conditions.”
PG&E’s latest plan still needs the approval of the North Coast Water Quality Control Board, which has been overseeing cleanup of the property for nearly 30 years. The City Council, which has no direct authority over the cleanup of the site, has requested regular status reports on the downtown project.
Water board staff expressed confidence that continuing to monitor groundwater in the area made more sense than requiring the removal of the tank and material at this point.
“With the monitoring, I am extremely confident that we’re not going to have an issue that actually manages to migrate to the creek (over the next decade),” said Craig Hunt, supervisor of the water board’s cleanup division.
But not everyone is so sanguine about the situation.
Allen Hatheway, author of a 2012 textbook on the subject of cleaning up former gas plant sites, called the claims that the tank can’t be removed “nonsense.”
Read more via PG&E: Toxic tank in Santa Rosa best left | The Press Democrat.

Posted on Categories Forests, Land Use, WaterTags , , , Leave a comment on State seeks water quality rules for pot growers

State seeks water quality rules for pot growers

Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
State officials have begun rolling out a new environmental initiative designed to win the cooperation of marijuana growers in protecting Northern California waterways and fisheries from the kinds of degradation that commonly result from pot cultivation.
A team of state and local agency representatives conducted a series of unannounced inspections last week of gardens in the Eel River watershed near Garberville, visiting 14 properties over three days along Sproul Creek. The creek went dry last summer for the first time in many years from what environmental officials believe was the combined effects of drought and unregulated water withdrawals for marijuana irrigation.
Part of a larger effort to address watershed damage, environmental contamination and illegal water diversions that have continued unregulated for decades in remote forests up and down the state, the undertaking includes a plan to develop water quality standards to which growers can be held accountable or face fines and other penalties.
The multi-agency endeavor targets those who cultivate pot on private lands, with landowner permission, and is aimed at creating a system of regulation designed to help growers farm in an environmentally friendly manner while authorizing enforcement action where necessary.
Read more via State seeks water rules for pot growers | The Press Democrat.

Posted on Categories WaterTags , Leave a comment on Washing toxin into storm drain results in environmental enforcement

Washing toxin into storm drain results in environmental enforcement

SONOMA COUNTY GAZETTE
District Attorney Jill Ravitch announced today that defendant Trius Diagnostic Imaging, Inc. of Stockton has resolved a civil environmental enforcement case that occurred on 10/29/13 at Spring Creek Medical Plaza, located at 1144 Sonoma Avenue in Santa Rosa.The investigation revealed that while a piece of radiology equipment was being moved from one of the medical offices and being loaded onto a truck for transport to Trius’ Stockton facility, Trius employees spilled an unknown liquid.
Rather than report the spill to the authorities, the employees hosed the spilled material into a storm drain leading to Spring Creek. A citizen noticed the spill and contacted the Santa Rosa Police Department. Officers responded, along with the Hazardous Materials Team from the Santa Rosa Fire Department.  Spring Creek Medical Plaza owners used a private company to clean up the spilled material which contained some petroleum.  First responders could not determine the quantity of the spill or whether it entered Spring Creek.
District Attorney Ravitch stated, “Businesses may not use storm drains to dispose of hazardous materials because all storm drains flow to our creeks.  We will take all appropriate enforcement measures to protect our creeks.”
The agreement reached between Trius and the District Attorney’s Office requires that Trius Diagnostics Imaging, Inc. pay a total of $50,661.97 in penalties and clean up costs. Of this amount, Trius will pay a penalty for an unlawful business activity of $7,500, clean-up costs in the amount of $34,818.97 to the business owners of the Spring Creek Medical Plaza and $5,343 in investigation costs to the City of Santa Rosa and the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office.  The defendant will pay restitution in the amount of $3,000 to an account that will benefit local watershed projects in Sonoma County.  Additionally the agreement requires that Trius must train its employees annually regarding reporting hazardous materials releases and reporting emergency spills.
The case was prosecuted by the Environmental and Consumer Law Division of the District Attorney’s Office and Deputy District Attorney Ann Gallagher White, assisted by District Attorney Investigator Lisa Chapman.  Detective Mark Azzouni of Santa Rosa Police Department’s Environmental Crimes Unit  headed the investigation.
via Washing Toxin into Storm Drain results in Environmental Enforcement.

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.