Monday, January 19, 2009

Valley farmers face deadline to clean toxic drainage

Sunday, Jan. 18, 2009

Farmers west of Firebaugh have spent millions of dollars over the last 14 years to cut 90% of the contaminated irrigation water flowing from beneath their fields of tomatoes, garlic and cotton.

But the clock runs out in December on the cleanup program, called the Grassland Bypass Project. Farmers in the Grassland Drainage Area need permission from the federal government to finish the job and eliminate all the toxic drainage, which can poison land and wildlife.

But some environmentalists have doubts. Some even question whether farming should be allowed on land with such problems, even though agriculture generates an estimated $330 million for the local economy.

Lloyd Carter, a board member with the activist group California Water Impact Network, noted that the government ordered the cleanup of this region in 1985.

"Here we are 24 years later, and we're still talking about it," said Carter, a Clovis resident. "That's ridiculous."

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