May 16, 2012 | | Shared as an educational material
Tulare County Supervisors Tuesday agreed to send a letter of concern to the State Water Resources Control Board that is considering steps to address the nitrate in drinking water issue.
County officials are concerned the state will take action, possibly a surcharge on chemicals, without a full study of what is causing the nitrate problem.
Nitrate has shown up in domestic drinking water wells in many areas of the San Joaquin Valley, including East Porterville and the west side of the county. For years the finger has been pointed at agriculture for causing nitrates.
Recently, the University of California Davis spent $2 million studying the issue and made recommendations for regulatory action. However, county officials pointed out, the study did not look at the source of nitrates, but rather assumed it came from ag chemicals. The study concluded that one in 10 people living in California’s most productive agricultural areas is at risk of exposure to harmful levels of nitrate contamination in their drinking water. The report was commissioned by the California State Water Resources Control Board.
The study was the first comprehensive scientific investigation of nitrate contamination in the Tulare Lake Basin, which includes Tulare, Fresno and Kern counties, said UC Davis.
The report outlined several potential funding solutions, including a fee on nitrogen fertilizer use to help fund drinking water costs.
The report concluded that more than 90 percent of human-generated nitrate contamination of groundwater is from agricultural activity.
“We have concerns with what the state water board will do with that report,” said Tulare County Chief Administrative Officer Jean Rousseau.
Denise Akins, administrative analyst/water resources, said the county is asking for additional funds to address the source of nitrates.
“We know we’ve had this nitrate problems for many years. We need time to determine the source of this problem,” said Dinuba area Supervisor Steven Worthley.
“They just don’t seem to understand in Sacramento what they’re doing to destroy this state,” he added.
Lindsay-area supervisor and board Chairman Allen Ishida said the source of nitrates needs to be defined before any solutions can be effective. He said just imposing a fee is not the answer.
“We need sound science and reasons to impose those fees,” he said.
The State Water Board will conduct a public workshop May 23 to consider public comment, as well as discuss the findings and options outlined in the UC Davis report. The board will review the public comment and issue recommendations to the state Legislature, as called for in the legislation.
In other action:
-Approved an amendment to Memorandum of Understanding between the County and the city of Dinuba regarding Tulare County’s General Plan Update. Rousseau said the agreement hopefully paves the way for other cities to back the new general plan.