Toxic waste dumped in TUD ditch

archive_import

By GENEVIEVE BOOKWALTER

Toxic chemicals were found in Tuolumne Utilities District ditch water north of Columbia last weekend and killed about 90 fish at the nearby Matelot Reservoir, forming white, thick, sticky clumps and leaving an oily slick on the water.

However, TUD officials said the chemicals have been neutralized and tap water drawn from that part of the ditch system is safe.

TUD officials are waiting for test results, but General Manager Tim McCullough said someone probably dumped methamphetamine-lab waste into the water.

Originally built in the 1800s, TUD's 56 miles of open ditches provide drinking water for most of the county.

Although Columbia water treatment plant operators noticed a spike Sunday night in the incoming ditch water's pH level, TUD did not release information about the spill until yesterday afternoon.

McCullough said a spike in pH level is not unusual. When the dead fish were discovered Tuesday at the reservoir, district officials realized a contamination problem was likely, he said.

"Thank God we have good instrumentation and were able to detect this stuff," McCullough said. "Columbia is a modern plant I would say the jewel of our system. It has all the whistles and buzzers, and they went off."

Water users who pump directly from the ditch should flush out their systems to prevent contamination, McCullough said. However, most contaminants have probably flowed on by.

While officials haven't pinpointed the exact dumping location, McCullough said chemicals definitely affected the Matelot Ditch below Italian Bar Road.

After learning yesterday about the spill, some TUD board members wondered if more should be done to protect the county's drinking water.

"What does it take? Are they going to wait for someone to get seriously ill and die before they take the water out of these contaminated ditches?" said Director Gary Walter.

A longtime supporter of piping the waterways, Walter said he has seen bathing dogs, dead cats and bloated, decomposing cows in TUD's ditches. Walter recommended saving ditch water for agricultural purposes and piping water to drink.

11500629
The Union Democrat
This image is copyrighted.

Reach all of Sonora, Calaveras County, Tuolumne, Angels Camp, Twain Harte, & Jamestown with your items to sell.

Ads appear Online and in Print

View Classifieds Place an Ad

Connect with The Union Democrat

Union Democrat Newsstand

Friday August 26, 2016

Read digital interactive editions of our publications

Read Today's Edition Take A Tour

More Publications by The Union Democrat

View All Publications
Sheriff’s Office responds to critical report

08/22/2016

The Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office has responded to a grand jury report ... more

Nursed back to health, hawk flies free

08/19/2016

Sonora resident Laura Reid was driving on Tuolumne Road when she saw ... more

Woman dies of injuries in Highway 120 accident

08/24/2016

The woman who spent Monday night pinned in an SUV after an ... more

Convicted murderer Thomas Hyatt to remain in prison

08/23/2016

Convicted murderer Thomas Hyatt won’t be getting out of prison anytime soon. ... more

Three rescued from wreck near Yosemite

08/23/2016

Three German tourists were rescued Tuesday from the scene of a crash ... more