Questions on Lodi's permit to discharge wastewater from its treatment plant have yet to be answered as the State Water Resources Control Board decided Tuesday that it needed more time to evaluate an environmental group's challenge to the permit.
The board postponed a decision on the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance's challenge. The group is concerned about the levels of pollutants in the treated wastewater the city uses for irrigation on fields near the White Slough wastewater treatment plant.
It is unclear what the exact consequences would be if the state sends the permit back to its regional board to be reconsidered. But if this happens, the city could face additional regulation, leading to costly upgrades to its plant or changes to how the city uses wastewater, said Water Services Manager Charlie Swimley.
From mid-April to mid-October, the city puts some of its wastewater into 790 acres of farm land and 49 acres of unlined storage ponds. Part of the wastewater comes from the Pacific Coast Producers cannery and other industrial plants. The water is pre-treated at the industrial plants but is not treated at the city's plant
"The idea of a municipal facility discharging industrial waste into unlined ponds borders on criminality," said Bill Jennings, executive director of the CSPA. Jennings wants more detailed studies to determine if Lodi is polluting groundwater with salt and nitrogen through this process, and he believes the city is disposing of too much of this water in one area.
The regional board approved the city's current permit with the requirement that the city further investigates whether it is contributing to groundwater contamination in the area, Swimley said.