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The Worst of Times

The Worst of Times

By Carolyn Barbre

It's like a ghost of Christmas past. The State Regional Water Quality Control Board plans to revisit Lindsay with Cleanup and Abatement Order No. 92-708, originally issued inn 1992, for the old brine ponds previously used by Lindsay Olive Growers.

Staff has been notified the board intends on issuing a new order specifically addressing the west ponds that were purchased by Sierra Cattle Company.

Public Works Director Tom McCurdy said that Fresno-based BSK and Associates consultants has proposed developing an Evaluation Monitoring Program, a proposed time schedule and a Sampling and Analysis Plan, at a cost of $13,530. That is for the study on what a cleanup would involve.

Salt and chloride are present at about 10 times the concentration found in regular aquifer water in the area, according to the water board.

Mayor Murray said he thought that any pollution from the brine ponds had become the responsibility of Sierra Cattle Company when the 160 acre parcel was sold to Rob Hilarides for expansion of his dairy.

McCurdy explained the dairy was just responsible for cleaning up surface contamination, or soil remediation at the bottom of the former ponds.

Townsend said Lindsay was the polluter, but the cost of cleanup had been prohibitive in the past.

Dubbed an "eco-drama," a report in the Jan. 22, 1991 Gazette said that city staff, council and key players had been meeting regarding whether to permanently close or retrofit the 200 acres of Lindsay Olive Grower (LOG) brine ponds by Nov. 1993. The ponds, that were maintained by the city for use by LOG for its olive processing operation were located at the intersection of Road 188 and Avenue 240.

Then Lindsay City Manager Bill Drennen said Lindsay would be submitting a report to the Ag Waste Committee in Sacramento, made up of 35 local, state and federal officials, in early February. Options for treatment of future effluent from the olive plant, Lindsay's largest single employer would be included along with elements to deal with aquifer remediation, taking care of the expanding plume of contamination below ground.

Drennen said the cost of cleanup could go as high as $30 million and take from five to 50 years. In February 1992 Drennen was reported to be looking to secure upwards of $36 million in state and federal grants and low-interest loans with the help of then Community Development Director Scot Townsend.

McCurdy said they couldn't estimate at this date what cleanup would cost.

"All we're doing at this point is acquiring data to figure out what we need to do. Basically we're taking another look at it."

A report was due on July 1, but McCurdy said the city submitted a revised time schedule to the regional board for their consideration. "We have requested a time extension. I'm pulling samples for BSK to look at what's been done and what needs to be done.

"BSK could make the argument that it will clean up on its own, given time," Townsend said at the council meeting.

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