California Regional Water Quality Control Board San Francisco Bay Region
1515 Clay Street, Suite 1400, Oakland, California 94612 Phone (510) 622-2300 • FAX (510) 622-2460
TO: Traci Tesconi
Project Planner III
PERMIT AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT DEPARTMENT
COUNTY OF SONOMA
FROM: William Hurley
Senior Water Resource Control Engineer
SAN FRANCISCO BAY REGION
REGIONAL WATER QUALITY CONTROL BOARD
DATE: July 27, 2000
SUBJECT: COMPLIANCE STATUS REPORT - PETALUMA MUSHROOM FARM, 782 THOMPSON LANE, PETALUMA, SONOMA COUNTY
Pursuant to your request, this memo discusses the compliance status of the Petaluma Mushroom Farm, located at 782 Thompson Lane, Petaluma.
The Regional Board currently regulates the Petaluma Mushroom Farm facility through a conditional waiver of Waste Discharge Requirements. The recurrent nature of the Petaluma Mushroom Farm's unauthorized wastewater discharges to waters of the State and its consistent failure to implement appropriate Best Management Practices has demonstrated its inability to meet the Regional Board's criteria for issuance of a waiver. Regional Board staff is preparing recommendations for further enforcement action against the Petaluma Mushroom Farm and will be preparing a Waste Discharge Requirements Order for Board consideration.
Regional Board staff have witnessed unauthorized discharges of wastewater directly to Marin Creek during several facility inspections since December 1998. The observed illicit discharges included wastewater, washdown water and polluted runoff which continued despite the Regional Board's issuance of a Notice to Comply on January 6, 1999, and a Notice of Violation on April 30, 1999. The discharges were in large part due to negligence and carelessness. In some instances, the discharge of washwater appeared deliberate in the sense that plugs from two storm drains had been removed to allow the discharge of washdown water to Marin Creek. The discharges observed by Regional Board staff, and additional evidence submitted by a citizens group, prompted the Sonoma County District Attorney's office to conduct an investigation which led to a Superior Court Judgment and Permanent Injunction (Pursuant to Stipulation) General Civil Case No. 222564 against the Petaluma Mushroom Farm. Item 4.c. of this Court decision requires the Petaluma Mushroom Farm to comply with all lawful orders and directives of the Regional Board relating to the operation of this mushroom facility. As described below, during an inspection on February 25, 2000, (subsequent to the Court decision) Regional Board staff observed illicit discharges of wastewater to an adjacent pasture in violation of the facility's conditional waiver of Waste Discharge Requirements.
GROUNDS FOR ENFORCEMENT
During a February 25, 2000, inspection, Regional Board staff observed illicit discharges of wastewater to an adjacent pasture in violation of the facility's conditional waiver of Waste Discharge Requirements. Wastewater was being discharged directly to the adjacent pasture through several conduits, including an unplugged overflow pipe leading from the facility's wastewater holding pond. The waiver of Waste Discharge Requirements allows the facility to spray-irrigate wastewater on this pasture at rates commensurate with the pasture soil conditions. The waiver prohibits the discharge of wastewater to the pasture whenever the soil is saturated or when there is stormwater runoff present. Regional Board staff have made a point of reminding the Petaluma Mushroom Farm owner and managers of the obligation to comply with this prohibition during each site inspection. Nonetheless, during the February 25, 2000, inspection, there was more than two feet of polluted water ponded in the pasture.
Staff also observed a four-inch hose leading from the pasture to the top of the channel bank of Marin Creek. When questioned about the use of this hose, staff was informed that there had been a wastewater pipeline that ruptured along the back side of the facility directly above Marin Creek, resulting in the discharge of wastewater to the creek. The four-inch hose was reportedly used to pump polluted creek water out of the channel onto the pasture. There was evidence that a pipe immediately above the creek had been repaired. Although the waiver of Waste Discharge Requirements requires the facility to report all spill incidents to the Regional Board and Sonoma County Permits and Resource Management Department, no such report was sent to the Regional Board.
In response to the unauthorized discharge to the pasture, Regional Board staff directed the Petaluma Mushroom Farm to cease discharging wastewater to the pasture, except as necessary to maintain recently planted landscape trees. The facility owner was instructed to develop, and adhere to, a watering schedule for the landscaped areas. Most of the wastewater generated at the facility is currently being trucked to the City of Petaluma's Sanitary District.
The discharges observed on February 25, 2000, constitute violations of the following waiver conditions:
Condition # 1 The discharge, or creation of potential for discharge, of deleterious material including, but not limited to, wastewater, washdown water, stormwater runoff contacting areas of industrial activity, cement, soil material, compost, manure, or other organic materials to waters of the State is prohibited.
Condition # 2 Application of wastewater to disposal fields shall be at rates which are reasonable for the soil, climate, crop, management system and any special local situations. Discharges of wastewater to disposal fields shall not result in surface runoff from disposal fields and shall be managed to minimize percolation to groundwater.
Condition # 3 A minimum of two feet of freeboard shall be maintained in the wastewater pond at all times.
Condition # 4 Any evidence of pond leakage, overflow, or any other unauthorized discharge of wastewater, washdown water, or stormwater runoff contacting areas of industrial activity shall be immediately reported to the Regional Board and the Sonoma County Permit and Resource Management Department.
Since these violations are subject to penalties of up to $ 10,000 per day, plus $10 for each gallon discharged, Regional Board staff is currently evaluating and will make recommendations on appropriate enforcement to be taken against the Petaluma Mushroom Farm by the Regional Board.
As part of enforcement against the Petaluma Mushroom Farm, Regional Board staff are drafting a Cleanup and Abatement Order (CAO) for our Executive Officer's consideration. The CAO will contain provisions requiring the Petaluma Mushroom Farm to investigate the extent of any surface and ground water pollution that may have resulted from the various illicit wastewater discharges from the facility. The CAO will also require the development and implementation of a corrective action plan, as necessary, to remediate any identified adverse water quality impacts. Staff will also be developing a Waste Discharge Requirements Order for our Board's consideration. The facility is currently permitted through a conditional waiver of Waste Discharge Requirements. The recurrent nature of the Petaluma Mushroom Farm's unauthorized wastewater discharges to waters of the State and its consistent failure to implement appropriate Best Management Practices has demonstrated its inability to meet the Regional Board's criteria for issuance of a waiver.
We are also troubled by last year's discovery that the facility was operating its on-site sewage treatment and disposal system at almost twice the County's permitted capacity. Any Waste Discharge Requirements Order adopted by the Regional Board will specify a maximum allowable capacity.
We are alarmed by the recurrent nature of the illicit wastewater discharges at the Petaluma Mushroom Farm and the facility's apparent disregard for County and State permit requirements. Illicit discharges and inadequate waste management practices have persisted at the facility despite the Regional Board's issuance of a Notice to Comply (January 6, 1999) and a Notice of Violation (April 30, 1999), the Superior Court's Judgment and Permanent Injunction (September 23, 1999), and the County's determination regarding septic system violations. Accordingly, to better regulate operation of the mushroom facility the Regional Board will henceforth be implementing a more rigorous regulatory and enforcement approach with the Petaluma Mushroom Farm.