September 29, 2014
Tulare County Resource Management Agency
Michael Spata, Associate Director
5961 S. Mooney Blvd.
Visalia, CA 93277
Re: Comments on CEMEX Peer Review Report
Dear Mr. Spata,
The Tulare County Farm Bureau has served as a watchdog in the community for many years monitoring land use conditions, permit requests, development activities and seeking to work cooperatively with the County of Tulare on protecting farmland and providing a quality of living for our residents through smart planning and responsible land use decision making.
We are in receipt of the Peer Review Report and Addendum regarding the CEMEX/Stillwell mining operation that operates near Lemon Cove. Upon review of this report and related information we would like to issue the following comments to the County.
CEMEX is clearly in non-compliance of their use permit based on the conditions of approval, and complaints have been issued to the County since January 2014 regarding negative impacts to groundwater around the mining site. It is clear from information that Farm Bureau has received from impacted landowners and concerned citizens that a number of missteps have occurred in remedying this concern. There have been concerns, complaints, and frustration from adjacent landowners dating back to the early 1970s, and here we are today four decades later finally getting to the true heart of the issue.
So far no significant enforcement or corrective action has occurred. We believe the County has not acted swiftly enough to address the true concerns of the impacted landowners and residents and enforce the conditions of approval for the use permit granted to CEMEX. We acknowledge that drought relief aid has assisted in temporarily providing water for drinking purposes, but this issue goes much further.
We believe that CEMEX should be immediately compelled to strictly comply with all Stillwell Project Conditions of Approval. The County has indicated they may act to revoke the permit, modify approval conditions, pursue enforcement actions, or initiate litigation – we believe that all of these actions should be thoroughly explored and acted upon accordingly.
Further, we believe CEMEX should be accountable for the damages done to people and property near the Stillwell plant site operations, and be compelled to make them whole. Slanderous comments made by legal representation of the mining operation towards neighbors and their properties should be discontinued and the record corrected to the extent it contains falsehoods.
The County should take all complaints of the neighbors seriously regarding this issue and act swiftly to respond, and should review complaints received from neighbors who own land adjacent to ALL CEMEX locations in Tulare County’s jurisdiction.
Finally, RMA should review the financial assurances required in the CEMEX permit and take corrective action to right this wrong. We are very disappointed in how this matter has been handled by CEMEX and the County of Tulare, and expect higher standards of our public leaders and those entrusted to manage our county’s land and water resources. We believe a tremendous disservice to our residents has occurred with this situation, and we ask the County to take immediate corrective actions.
We agree with the conclusion drawn in the peer report on page 16, “the Report’s overall evaluation is based on an incomplete set of facts. Thus, the conclusion that the Quarry operations are not at fault is without merit. It is possible that the Report’s conclusions are completely correct. But, absent relevant data, coupled with questions about the overall evaluation in the Report, as detailed in the sections above, it is difficult to say CEMEX is without fault.” The quality and integrity of the record that CEMEX has provided regarding their compliance to their conditions of approval is not acceptable, false information, incomplete information, and credible experts have been left out of this process much to our disappointment.
We thank the County for the opportunity to comment on this issue and the opportunity to review the Peer Review document. We will participate in the public hearing when a date is announced.
We understand that water pumping has resumed into the V-Ditch. News of this development is encouraging, and we are pleased that restoration of groundwater movement to nearby wells is occurring.
PATRICIA STEVER BLATTLER