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Indybay Feature
Mon Mar 14 2011
The Sickly Green Salinas River
Mon Mar 14 2011
Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board Hearing in Watsonville
Because of agricultural discharges from Salinas Valley farms, the lower Salinas River has been found to have one of the highest levels of nitrates of any river in the world. During the summer, the river is bright green with a thick mat of toxic algae. The fertilizer doesn’t just impair the Salinas River. When the first rain comes in the fall, a huge pulse of sediment and fertilizer flushes out into Monterey Bay. This pulse has been associated with toxic algae blooms that sicken or kill sea otters, sea lions, and sea birds.

The agricultural runoff is also hurting Elkhorn slough. Large parts of the slough have been found to be eutrophic – with high levels of algae and low dissolved oxygen. This is choking out the beds of eelgrass that Bay fish use to spawn. The agricultural runoff is also contaminated with pesticides, which kills tiny zooplankton that are the base of the aquatic food chain. The nitrates and pesticides have also contaminated 28% of the wells in the area, which can sicken farm workers living in small rural communities. One rural community, San Jerardo, had no potable water for years.

There will be a crucial public hearing before the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board on Thursday, March 17th, at 8:15am at the Watsonville Council Chambers, 275 Main St, Watsonville. Read more
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