A $55,164 settlement has been levied against Guggia Farms, Inc. of Santa Barbara County by the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board (CCRWQCB) for failure to submit data and information used to monitor water quality impacts to surface and groundwater sources. A Conditional Waiver of Waste Discharge Requirements for Discharges from Irrigated Lands (Ag Order) is required of landowners and operators with farms growing commercial irrigated crops to obtain regulatory coverage by enrolling the farm in the Ag Order. Guggia Farms grows approximately 391 acres of broccoli crops.
The CCRWQCB adopted the Ag Order in in 2012 and was updated in 2017. Landowners and operators growing commercial irrigated crops must enroll their farms by submitting an electronic Notice of Intent.
Guggia Farms was found to have eight violations including: a late submittal of the 2013 Annual Compliance Form (ACF); late submittal of the 2014 total nitrogen applied (TNA) Report; late submittal of the 2015 TNA Report; late submittal of the 2016 TNA Report; late response to a 13267 Order (submittal of laboratory analyses of irrigation water, records used to estimate or calculate the volume of water applied, nitrate soil test(s), and fertilization records); late submittal of the2016 Irrigation and Nutrient Management Plan (INMP) Effectiveness Report; late submittal of the 2016 Water Quality Buffer Plan (WQBP); and, Failure to Submit the 2015 Individual Surface Water Discharge Monitoring Data. Legal documents indicate that no individual surface water discharge monitoring occurred in 2015, 2016, nor 2017.
When commercial farms initially enroll their property, CCRWQCB staff assigns the farm a tier. Tier 1 ranches having the fewest reporting requirements and Tier 3 having the most reporting requirements. Landowners and operators with Tier 2 and Tier 3 farms are required to complete, and keep up to date, an annual compliance form. Landowners and operators with Tier 2 and Tier 3 farms growing high-risk crops (those that have a high risk of discharging nitrogen to groundwater) are required to submit an annual total nitrogen applied report. A subset of landowners and operators with Tier 3 farms are required to develop and implement a water quality buffer plan and an irrigation and nutrient management plan (INMP); growers required to develop an INMP must submit an effectiveness report of their INMP.
Guggia Farms is ranked as a Tier 3 ranch because they reported chlorpyrifos applications to the Department of Pesticide Regulation, and irrigation and stormwater discharge in the annual compliance form submitted to the Regional Water Board. The data requirements are used to ensure that farms are achieving water quality objectives in their management practices. As noted in the Settlement agreement between Guggia Farms and the CCRWQCB, Guggia Farms is located less than a mile from an elementary school.
The school’s well has elevated levels of nitrates in their drinking water supply well and is a priority site for the irrigated lands program. Guggia Farms uses sprinkler irrigation and the irrigation water has a nitrate concentration of 180 milligrams per liter nitrate as nitrogen. Therefore, Guggia Farms is considered a high risk for loading nitrogen to groundwater in this area.