COARSEGOLD — For nearly a month now, one local man has been concerned about conditions in Coarsegold Creek. Knowing that heavy rains this winter and spring may have caused some septic systems to be overwhelmed, he wants to spread the word that the creek may be contaminated, and people nearby may want to check their septic systems and possibly avoid the creek water.
“There has been an unchecked outflow of sewage into Coarsegold Creek that started on March 16,” says Charles (Chuck) Millard, who lives about two miles south of Coarsegold village. Millard has a background in environmental science and is trained to visually recognize and certified to respond to hazmat situations. He reported the situation to the local water quality board, and local Fish and Wildlife.
“The source seemed to be from a local business that didn’t know that their system had suffered pump failure and that it was discharging into the waterway. Water Quality and Code Enforcement responded after a lengthy delay, even after being contacted by Fish and Wildlife, whom I had contacted with the original complaint.”
The pump in question was repaired on Mar. 20, Millard says. It now appears there may be more than a single source of pollution, as Millard is still seeing foamy signs of contamination downstream on his property.
“The water quality folks are still actively looking at other sites, but I would like to ask all residents in the area and those who live along the creek to make sure that your septic systems are properly maintained to prevent this type of contamination to our very precious waterways and wildlife. The large volume of rainfall we have experienced has overwhelmed many systems here locally without many folks knowing that they might have an unknown discharge situation from their property.”
Dale Harvey and Warren Gross, both with the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Board, confirmed today that inspectors have sampled Millard’s water twice, lately. They have also taken samples from areas in the creek to the north and south, in order to determine where the water may be contaminated, if it is, and where the pollution is coming from.
Samples were taken most recently on Thursday, Apr. 6 and Tuesday, Apr. 11. The Board was testing for detergents which may determine whether or not the issue stems from septic. Samples are taken to a lab where it takes two weeks to receive results. Foam, they say, can be the result of natural processes in the creek, especially following rain. Foam can also be a sign of failing septic, chemicals or other pollutants.
A local RV resort was inspected on Apr. 3 by the Water Quality Board, which regulates the location. There’s an ephemeral creek that runs between the resort and Coarsegold Creek and, as a precaution, the Board says they are checking to make sure there is no contamination between the two.
Septic systems in the area, in general, are regulated by Madera County Environmental Health. Millard says he called the County last night and they responded this morning that they had not been contacted by authorities, and he’s frustrated that the agencies’ interaction is not more efficient.
Meanwhile, it’s up to individuals to maintain their systems to assure the safety of all. The Water Quality Board says it’s a good idea for people to check their leech fields regularly during a wet year like the one we’ve recently experienced.
Chuck Millard agrees.
“If we want to live in a clean safe place, we all need to help by stopping even what may seem to be a small insignificant discharge. Contamination starts drop by drop and can have long term effects that nobody wants. Remember, we live downstream. And you might want to avoid water contact until this clears up.”