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Tracking measurable success on efforts across California to preserve and connect our Parks & Wildlife Corridors



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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

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San Joaquin Valley Ag-Drainage Polluters Get 90 Day Deadline for Action

From the PCL Insider, 11/7/2008

Fifty years after the Westlands Water District began irrigating drainage-impaired lands in the San Joaquin Valley, causing massive accumulation of toxic selenium and other salts in the soils and drainage water, the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board (Board) has taken action to address the ongoing pollution problem. In a letter last week, http://www.pcl.org/files/CVLetterToWWD.pdf, the Board gave the water district 90 days to file for a waste discharge permit and present a plan for cleaning up the soils that have been building up salts and toxins for decades.
While federal officials knew that providing water to Westlands from the Delta and Northern California would aggravate the naturally occurring salt-loading problems on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, the Federal Bureau of Reclamation pushed forward with the irrigation project. As a result, the Westlands area is one of the largest, most heavily subsidized, and profitable agribusiness regions in the world as well as one of California's worst environmental legacies.
The hard clay soils on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley are naturally impermeable, preventing water and salts from seeping into the earth. In many places in the area, the water table is no more than five feet from the surface of the ground. Toxics and salts from the imported irrigation water mix with the groundwater, compromising crop root systems - a problem people in the business refer to as "drainage impairment."
The Board's letter reminds Westlands that discharging toxic laden water is a violation of laws protecting the state's surface and groundwater. We're pleased to see the Board treating the drainage situation as a serious problem and hope their actions mark a turning point in efforts to clean up the area.

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