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Pond mud byproduct may pose threat to water supply for Manteca & Lathrop

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POSTED January 29, 2010 2:36 a.m.
OAKDALE — A public meeting on Jan. 20 for a new, second permit filed to spread the remainder of Con Agra’s byproduct pond mud onto rural Oakdale properties brought out less than a dozen people, including the presenters, but a new player is now in the mix.

The South San Joaquin Irrigation District (SSJID) owns the Woodward Reservoir on the outskirts of Oakdale, which is bordered on the east side by portions of land listed on the permit that shed water to the reservoir.

The permit application for where this dredged byproduct pond mud is to be spread was filed by JND Thomas Co., Inc. (President is Dennis Thomas of Riverdale in Fresno County), a contractor that does dredging, dewatering, excavating, aeration and circulation, and land application. However, research indicates that the properties listed on the permit are owned by VA Rodden Inc. of Oakdale with land in the Oakdale/Waterford area near Ellenwood Road listed on the permit and Lloyd T. Prothers of Modesto with property east of 28 Mile Road that borders east and northeast portions of the reservoir listed on the permit. The Prothers properties are the ones of concern to SSJID.

The public meeting was hosted by the Stanislaus County Department of Environmental Resources at Oakdale’s Gene Bianchi Community Center with remarks and presentation made by the department’s director Sonya Harrigfeld and Senior Resource Management Specialist Vicki Jones.

Bill Hubkey, the plant manager for SSJID’s Nick C. DeGroot water treatment plant located on Dodds Road in Oakdale, which currently supplies the potable (drinking) water to the cities of Manteca, Lathrop, and Tracy – and will supply water to Escalon in 2012 – was at the meeting to express the district’s concerns about runoff contaminating the water in the reservoir.

Harrigfeld said that soil samples and plant tissues samples would be taken over a period of time to monitor that the byproduct material was being applied at appropriate agronomic rates. She said that samples are taken prior to application and post application, so a baseline is created.

Hubkey asked Harrigfeld if her department had planned to do water quality samples, to which Harrigfeld replied no.

“You don’t have a baseline if something occurs?” Hubkey asked Harrigfeld.

After a long pause, Harrigfeld said that she felt the setbacks were enough that it wouldn’t be of impact to the reservoir.

In a brief interview after the meeting, Hubkey said that right now, with the heavy rains, the water is “flowing like crazy” off those properties into the reservoir.

According to the Department of Environmental Resources presentation, the pond mud consists of byproducts of tomatoes, beans, leaves, stems, and soil rinsed from the fruit. It is a mud slurry that is approximately 60 percent solids. The pond contains approximately 20,000 dry tons of byproduct mud. The mud spreading will use within 24 hours of delivery and the landowner will used a manure spreader to distribute it. The byproducts must be incorporated into the soil with 48-72 hours, after a period of initial drying.

There are five parcels proposed for land application located in the unincorporated areas of the County. The Land Application Sites are as follows: Parcel 1(a): Ellenwood Rd., west side of road, Waterford (also known as 3000 Crow Rd., Oakdale) – APN 015-003-004; Parcel 1(b): Ellenwood Rd., east side of road, Oakdale (also known as 4000 Ellenwood, Oakdale) – APN 015-081-048; [Parcel 2: Voluntarily removed from the project]; Parcel 3(a): 28 Mile Rd., east side of road, Valley Home – APN 002-009-005; Parcel 3(b): Sonora Rd., south side of road, Oakdale – APN 002-021-011; Parcel 3(c): Frankenheimer Rd., west side of road, Oakdale – APN 002-021-048.

All documents are available for review at 3800 Cornucopia Way, Suite C, Modesto and online at www.stancounty.com/er/ceqa.shtm.

The deadline for final comments on this matter is Thursday, Feb. 11, then a public hearing with the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors is scheduled tentatively for Tuesday, April 6.

For more information about the project, contact Vicki Jones, Sr. Resource Management Specialist at the Stanislaus County Dept. of Environmental Resources at (209) 525-6710.

For more information go to the county’s Environmental Resources website at www.co.stanislaus.ca.us/er/.

For reference on prior articles about the Con Agra byproduct pond mud spreading issue, go to The Oakdale Leader website at www.oakdaleleader.com and type in the key words “pond mud” into the Search Archives area to find related stories in the July 15, July 29, Nov. 25, and Dec. 2, 2009 issues.
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