State will wait for appeal decision on mushroom farm

Water board finds three violations by company

By Lois Pearlman, Argus-Courier Staff

A state agency charged with protecting water quality is taking a wait and see
approach over alleged repeated violations by the Petaluma Mushroom Farm.

Owned by Dave Cerini, the mushroom farm has been located in this rural
residential neighborhood since 1973.

According to Will Bruhns, a senior engineer with the San Francisco Bay
Regional Water Quality Control Board, his agency found three violations at
the six-acre mushroom farm when investigators visited it in November and

In November, Bruhns said, investigators found the farm's compost piles
were not sufficiently contained and rainwater was washing them away. Also,
farm operators were hauling wastewater used in their processing to a pond
near Santa Rosa instead of the Petaluma sewage plant.

In December, when water quality officials returned, the first compost pile
was contained, but the wastewater was still going into the pond. There was
also a new violation. The farm was spraying wastewater onto a field that was
already saturated.

The water quality agency first found violations on the farm in 1999, which
resulted in prosecution by the Sonoma County District Attorney's office.

Mushroom farm owners agreed to move their operations to a property on
Roblar Road, but have received two extensions from the county on their
Thompson Lane permit.

Saying they are fed up with the stench and the water pollution, neighbors on
Thompson Lane have appealed the second extension, which would allow the
mushroom farm to remain in its current location until November 2002.

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors was scheduled to consider the
appeal Jan. 15.

Bruhns said his agency will wait until the appeal is resolved before taking any
action against the mushroom farm. The water quality control board has
enforcement powers, but it has not used them against the mushroom farm.

"How much resources do we spend here for something that is about to
move?" Bruhns remarked.

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