This blog is re-posted from the Milk Producers Council Newsletter.  If you have any questions please contact Kevin Abernathy at the Milk Producers Council or Lee N. Smith or Craig Tristao of our office..

The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board (Regional Board) officials confirmed Thursday that they are in the process of contacting about 70 dairies to investigate whether their manure retention ponds are in direct contact with groundwater.

Some dairies have already reported receiving the letters, which order them to submit technical reports to help determine whether their ponds intersect the water table. Regional Board officials said the effort is focused in an area of the northern San Joaquin Valley known for historically shallow water tables, near communities like Hilmar, Turlock and Merced.

The targeted area appears to include parts of Stanislaus, Merced and San Joaquin Counties. Initial reports indicate that the Regional Board is giving dairies until July 31 to respond to their request for information determining whether the dairy’s pond intersects.

The letters require affected dairies to have a licensed civil engineer or land surveyor prepare a “Groundwater Separation Study,” which would include the elevation of the land surface near the lagoon, the lowest part of the top embankment, depth of groundwater below ground surface, “highest anticipated groundwater,” and a comparison of the elevation of the bottom of the lagoon to highest anticipated groundwater. If the ponds intersect groundwater or highest anticipated groundwater, the Regional Board is asking dairies to respond by October 31 with a “remedial workplan” including a time schedule for “elimination of the threats to groundwater associated with this condition.” The October 31 deadline appears to be for submitting the plan, and the letters to not state a specific deadline for when affected dairies would have to fully implement the remedial workplan. However, they would have to propose a time schedule for doing so. Milk Producers Council  has requested additional information and is closely monitoring the situation; and will provide updates as developments warrant.

Craig A. Tristao is a Partner in the litigation and transactions departments of the firm’s Fresno office. He provides representation to clients in litigation matters involving agricultural law, environmental law, construction law, land use and natural resource law, water law, probate and estates, and eminent domain matters that involve the California High Speed Rail Authority. Craig also assists clients with regulatory compliance issues concerning the Clean Water Act (CWA), the Porter-Cologne Act, and the Clean Air Act (CAA). In addition to litigation, Craig also represents clients before the Regional Water Quality Control Boards and the State Water Resources Control Board, air districts, and the Contractors State License Board (CSLB). He has also been named a Super Lawyers “Rising Star” for 2015-2018 (2.5% of lawyers practicing under 10 years). You can contact Craig at (559) 248-4820 or