The San Benito County Farm Bureau presented a petition with 140
signatures urging the San Benito County Water District to take
appropriate measures necessary to protect the groundwater in the
San Juan Basin.
The San Benito County Farm Bureau presented a petition with 140 signatures urging the San Benito County Water District to take appropriate measures necessary to protect the groundwater in the San Juan Basin and to object to testing of the city’s proposed wetlands.

“We feel the water district has the responsibility to protect the quality of water being percolated in the aquifer,” said Anthony Botelho, chairman of the Farm Bureau’s water committee.

Farm Bureau members have been concerned about groundwater deterioration for many years. Botelho said he had been involved with other petition drives in the past, “But this was the one of the easier ones I have ever been associated with.”

“Every person I approached signed it – every single one, with little or no comments other than their water has gotten worse over the years,” he said.

The Farm Bureau circulated the petition to assure that the city does the right thing because after reading the documents and completing the research, Botelho said the city’s main emphasis for its long-term wastewater treatment plant is based on capacity, not quality.

The Farm Bureau is also concerned about the effects the plant will have on top of the existing conditions in the San Juan Basin, which has been affected by Hollister’s wastewater discharge for years. The discharge could eventually cause harm to the agricultural industry that generates more than $200 million per year.

Botelho said the city’s page-and-a-half Groundwater Management Plan seems vague to the Farm Bureau, but what is quite clear is the California Regional Water Quality Control Board’s waste discharge order 87-47 permit requirements for Hollister’s domestic wastewater treatment facility.

According to the information in the city’s initial permit order, test wells in the San Juan Valley concluded at that time that the total dissolve solids were just under 800.

“Now, I don’t think you can find a well in the San Juan Valley that’s not over 1,600, 1,700 (TDS) or worse,” Botelho said. “That’s what everybody is upset about.”

The Farm Bureau is opposed to the city’s wetland proposal because of the adverse affects it will have on landowners if there is an accident.

“This is a good excuse to run surface water down the San Benito River,” Botelho said. “It’s an easy way of great capacity for the wastewater. Who’s going to be responsible? All of it is privately owned. Is the water district going to take responsibility for that? I don’t know.”

Botelho said the Farm Bureau supports the water district’s efforts to work with multiple agencies on the issues, but would like some answers to their questions.

However, if the Farm Bureau feels that its interests are not being protected, legal avenues will be explored, he said.

“We hope you have the courage to do this,” Botelho said. “The impacts will be irreversible for years and years.”

Bob Frusetta, also representing the Farm Bureau’s water committee, said it wasn’t only San Juan residents who signed the petition. Many were Hollister residents and farmers throughout the county.

The signatures were collected in a matter of a few days, Botelho said, and added that if a full petition campaign was made, thousands of signatures could be had.

“It was that easy,” he said.

Among those who signed the petition are San Benito County Planning Commissioner Anthony Freitas; San Juan Bautista City Manager Larry Cain; long-time Tres Pinos resident and former county Supervisor George Kincaid; as well as local businesses Seminis Vegetable Seeds and RMC Pacific Materials.

“It’s not just people from the San Juan Valley,” Frusetta said. “It’s pretty much from people all over San Benito County. It shows a broad, basic concern.”

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


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