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Impacts to Water Resources are Key Concerns

Impacts to water resources are among the chief concerns CARRQ has had about the development of a quarry and recycling plant on Roblar Road. The quarry site is next door to the closed county landfill (that is unlined) and situated on hilly terrain in the uppermost reach of the Americano Creek watershed and a nearaby riparian habitat.  Residents living near the quarry site are concerned for the safety of water quality in their wells, and the potential for the quarry to draw down significant amounts of water during its operation for dust control and other uses.

Drought Conditions Worry Land Owners 2014

A storm system in February 2014 brought much needed rain to Sonoma County, but our area and the state remain in a critical drought condition.  We worry what impacts the ongoing drought will have on agriculture, private wells and local water resources.  CARRQ remains concerned that the Roblar Road quarry could draw down water levels significantly if the quarry proponents prevail in their legal appeals and the quarry is eventually allowed to operate (Note: As of February 2014, no date has yet been set for the case to be heard at the California Appellate Court).

Jane Nielson, Ph. D., local geologist and co-founder of the Sonoma County Water Coaltion and the Sebastopol Water Information Group (SWiG) provides these links for information about the status of the Santa Rosa Plain Groundwater Study:

Impacts to Americano Creek and the Ranch Tributary

Americano Creek is a large regional creek with a 39-square mile watershed, draining westward towards Bodega Bay through Estero Americano. The upper reach of Americano Creek flows from its headwaters about one mile east of the quarry site.  About 400 feet from the access road to the quarry, Americano Creek crosses under Roblar Road and continues westward along the quarry site.  Another waterway, the Ranch tributary, flows west along the south property boundary and empties into Americano Creek near the quarry site. 

The Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) states that the Roblar Landfill represents a potential of surface water pollutants due to the landfill's use as a public landfill and burn area. Surface water runoff can contain sediments eroded from unpaved access roads, which are then discharged to Americano Creek by the landfill surface water drainage system. 

Key Points:

  • The DEIR only studied impact to the Americano Creek from flooding. The County did not study the impacts to Americano Creek when Roblar Road is widened to accommodate gravel trucks
  • State and Federal agencies will have to permit the quarry operator to make any adjustments to the course or alignment of Americano Creek when the road is widened.  Because the DEIR does not adequately describe how the creek will be impacted by road construction, we do not know if the agencies will permit the work to be done or if more analysis must be done

Ground Water

There are not adequate testing wells to see what different waterways exist underground and there are not adequate testing wells to monitor for toxins entering the local water supply.

Volatile organic compounds were found in one of the test wells on the mining site. It is likely that these VOC’s came from the adjacent county landfill, although inadequate water data exists to show the origin of the VOC’s. The mitigation proposed for this problem was to dig another well, not to find out where the VOC’s are coming from and deal with the problem at its source. Since we know the VOC’s are there, there is a likelihood that the significant water use the mining operation will require and the proximity of the Roblar Road unlined landfill, could change the water plume and contaminate local residents’ wells. VOC’s are carcinogenic at any level, we are talking about the drinking water of local residents. Will the quarry owner pay for quarterly water testing for carcinogens that could be introduced into the water supply for the wells of local homeowners? Where is the data to show where the actual water flows exist below the landfill site and the mine site and at what level?

The DEIR discusses the potential for mining water usage to reduce deep recharge to regional ground water sources, that mining could adversely impact groundwater flow and quality in nearby domestic groundwater wells, and that the project use of onsite wells could cause periodic “downdraw” or lowering of local groundwater levels. The local residents’ wells are already low producing wells; some have to truck in water during parts of the year. The EIR lists this water issue as not significant and no mitigation needed, thereby failing to foresee or protect the impact on health of residents. While the County is requiring the developer to indemnify the County against any damage this project could cause, it offers no protection to local homeowner’s water supply or water safety.

Surface Water Runoff

Sediment loads in the Americano Creek may be increased to the detriment of stream and fish health.

Source Document: Roblar Road Draft Environmental Impact Report--Permit and Resource Management Department