Scope of sampling takes center stageat groundwater confab

Detecting nitrates focus of free samplings

Photo by Laura Gjovaag.
Kirk Cook of the Groundwater Advisory Committee explains that the primary goal of the committee is to determine how much nitrates are applied to area lands, how much is utilized and how much leftover is getting into the water supply. To help in the effort, the committee is offering free and anonymous deep soil sampling to area growers through the South Yakima Conservation District (509-829-9025).

GRANGER – A review of the Groundwater Advisory Committee’s work at last night’s meeting turned into questions on whether or not the sampling size and scope will be big enough to properly assess the situation.

The committee is offering free deep soil sampling to growers all over the management area, which runs from Union Gap down to the Benton County line, through the South Yakima Conservation District (509-829-9025).

Jean Mendoza of Friends of Toppenish Creek argued that the goal of sampling 50 sites this year is too low.

She also was concerned about the self-selected nature of those who respond. She said she was afraid that growers that know their practices may be causing problems will simply not respond, leading to incomplete data.

Steve George of the Yakima County Farm Bureau countered with the argument that farmers want to do what’s best for the land. The free sampling will help them in that goal.

Stuart Turner of Turner and Co. agreed with George, noting that his growers wanted to sign up.

It was also noted that the identity of the growers will be anonymous, allowing them to get the information they need to help solve the nitrate problem without the fear of being sued.

Laurie Crowe of the South Yakima Conservation District said that 50 was the goal for the first year, but there will be more sampling in future years. In addition, the district hopes to exceed the goal.

Mendoza was unconvinced that the committee will get enough data from volunteers to make useful assessments, which she felt could invalidate the committee’s work.

Kirk Cook of the Department of Agriculture, who was giving the presentation reviewing the committee’s work, noted that the request for sampling was the first time the public itself has been asked to assist in the committee’s work.

“We haven’t had any meaningful participation from citizens yet,” he said. “We don’t know what will happen.”

He also said that the committee has data to fall back to if it cannot get the detailed information it wants from the soil sampling. He said the committee can still move forward without the data, but the efforts may be less effective than if the community chooses to participate.

The group also argued about the potential implementation stage of the committee’s work. Although the committee is still on the second step of the process and the implementation is step six, members of the group had heated exchanges over whether the group would ever agree on the best way to reduce nitrates.

Some members of the group were not impressed by the arguments. Jim Trull of the Sunnyside-Roza Joint Board of Control silenced much of the arguments by noting that the committee still has a lot to do.

“I’m continually amazed at the discussion of regulation when we don’t have the data yet,” he said.

The committee’s next meeting will be Thursday, Aug. 21, at 5 p.m. in the conference room at Radio KNDA in Granger. The public is welcome to attend.


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