There’s help for the Bloomingcamp Ranch right here in Merced City, where Safeway has been tapping into our tap water for years and bottling it for sale. We also have a local developer down here who is expert is constructing pipelines apparently to nowhere. So he can certainly build one from Merced City to the outskirts of Oakdale, so customers of Bloomingcamp can have confidence in the ranches water source. From Ranchwood to Bloomingcamp, ranch-to-camp, so to speak.
No need to worry just because the ranch is beyond the city limits of Merced City. So is University of California, Merced, and Merced City is happy to provide it with water. If all goes well and Bloomingcamp flourishes as a result of this fresh water supply, maybe they can buy UC Merced and set up another tourist attraction.
Bloomingcamp Ranch has affordable solution. ‘We are not (going) anywhere,’ co-owner says.
By Ken Carlson
The owners of Bloomingcamp Ranch near Oakdale have some hopeful news for loyal customers.
They will submit an affordable water treatment plan to the county by a deadline Friday and will stay in business.
“The most important thing is the county and state are allowing us to make a correction plan that is very cost-effective,” co-owner Mathew Steinberg said.
The proposal still requires state approval, but recent communications between the business and county and state officials placed a focus on an affordable solution, Steinberg said.
The ranch off Highway 120 east of Oakdale was threatened with up to $1,000 a day in regulatory fines if it did not submit an engineering memo for reducing nitrates in its small public water system. A well and supply lines at Bloomingcamp Ranch are connected to the Farm Stand, Bake Shop and restrooms.
Three weeks ago, Steinberg said he was possibly looking at more than $200,000 in costs for a treatment system to comply with the county order, which would have forced the 40-plus-year-old business to close.
“We are not planning to go anywhere,” Steinberg said this week.
The business, which is popular with tourists and local residents alike, will keep using bottled water for drinking and food preparation in the bakery, costing $80 a month. The ranch, including orchards, the country-style food sales and park grounds, is proposing reverse osmosis treatment for tap water in the restrooms, with a capital cost of $1,000, Steinberg said.
The ranch has been under a compliance order to reduce unacceptable levels of nitrates in the water, which is a health threat to infants. Even with “don’t drink from faucet” signs in the public bathrooms, regulators were concerned some people would ignore the warning or a mother might fill an infant formula bottle from the tap.
The owners acknowledged the need to clean up the water, but have searched for a solution that would not break the business.
Steinberg said the ranch received an outpouring of support from customers and friends following a Modesto Bee story last month on small-business struggles with costs of providing clean water in unincorporated areas. A longtime customer created a Save Bloomingcamp Ranch gofundme account with a goal of raising $300,000 for treatment equipment.
Steinberg said he appreciated the generosity but will suggest the $975 in gofundme donations is given to charity.
“Everyone knows Bloomingcamps and everyone has a story about it,” said Ashley Olson of Modesto, who created the account. When she was growing up, her family drove out to the ranch for the freshly baked pies.
“It is nostalgic and a good happy place for the community,” Olson said.
Stanislaus County is mandated by state government to regulate about 200 water systems that have less than 200 service hookups. Bloomingcamp Ranch is considered a small public system because the business serves at least 25 customers a day.
Jami Aggers, county environmental resources director, said the business owners promised to meet Friday’s deadline for turning in the proposal. The solution still needs a stamp of approval from the State Water Resources Control Board.
The state agency had no comment Wednesday, saying it has not seen the plan.
Steinberg has said a new well would cost around $20,000. In a valley plagued by increasing contaminants in groundwater, however, there’s no guarantee the well wouldn’t soon be tainted, he said.
Clean water crisis: Stanislaus County asks state to allow bottled water in hardship cases
By Ken Carlson
Owner Joy Bloomingcamp and operator Betsy Townsend explain how State water regulations could shut down Bloomingcamp Ranch, a popular stop for baked goods and scenery east of Oakdale, Calif. By Joan L Lee
Stanislaus County will ask the state to consider use of bottled water as a permanent alternative for small public water systems that are in violation of safe drinking water standards.
Last week, the state notified the county of a State Water Resources Control Board position that doesn’t recognize bottled water as a way for small water systems to comply with drinking water regulations. Business owners, mobile home park operators, employers and schools are among those facing rising costs of maintaining regulated water systems that are increasingly polluted with nitrates, arsenic and other contaminants.
County leaders point out that more stringent water quality standards are what’s resulted in compliance orders against some small operators, creating a financial hardship. The county is under a state mandate to regulate about 200 water systems that have fewer than 200 service connections.
Right now, current regulations only allow temporary use of bottled water as system owners work on complying with drinking water standards. Their permanent options usually are connecting to a city or larger water system, drilling a new well or installing expensive equipment to treat the water.
The Board of Supervisors gave approval Tuesday to sending a letter to the state water board asking the state to consider long-term bottled water use in cases of financial hardship.
“We need to stand up for our community and our small businesses,” Supervisor Kristin Olsen said.
The item was a late addition to the supervisors’ agenda after the state board provided feedback on Bloomingcamp Ranch’s proposal for long-term use of bottled water in its bakery. The tourist stop near Oakdale has become a poster child for small businesses facing steep costs of compliance with safe-drinking-water orders and was threatened with fines before it submitted a plan to the county last week.
The owners have said costs of a $100,000 to $200,000 treatment system, to reduce nitrates in the water, would destroy the business. Bloomingcamp has also proposed a far less costly treatment process for water supplied to public restrooms.
“We feel the state water board should consider it as an option and should be weighing the financial impact of these regulations,” county Chief Executive Officer Jody Hayes said. The county has little discretion in enforcing state regulations for small water systems.
Mathew Steinberg, co-owner of Bloomingcamp Ranch, said Tuesday afternoon he received a letter stating that bottled water was not one of the permanent measures allowed in the state regulations. The letter did not comment on his proposal for the fairly inexpensive process for treating water for the restrooms, he said.
“I just got notified this afternoon,” Steinberg said. “I really don’t have a response other than we are going to work on it and work on the most affordable solution that we can.”
The county Department of Environmental Resources has issued orders to 23 of the small public water systems in unincorporated areas, telling them to come up with technical plans for complying with drinking water standards. Some affected businesses meet the definition of a public water system because they supply drinking water to more than 25 employees.
Roselawn Continuation High School near Turlock is another entity trying to comply with the state regulations.
An order in August 2017 instructed the school on Roselawn Avenue to come into compliance with drinking water standards for nitrates, lead, copper and uranium. The school filtered its well water for nitrates for 20 years, but issues with the other contaminants have only arisen in the past couple of years, a school official said.
Scott Richardson, director of maintenance and operations, said bottled water has been supplied to students and staff as the Turlock Unified School District works with the state on a new well. Bottled water is not considered a permanent option, Richardson stressed.
“We knew we had to find a better water source,” he said, noting Roselawn was approved for a $500,000 grant through a state program. “The (state) has to approve every step of the process. The whole process takes about three years, but in the end the well and everything associated with it will be fully funded.”
A consultant has advised the school district that a well from 270 to 390 feet in depth should provide a long-term supply of clean water.
Last year, an analysis by McClatchy newspapers estimated that 360,000 California residents are served by systems with unsafe drinking water. About 6 million are supplied with water by providers that failed to meet state standards at some point in the last seven years, the analysis found.
Merced Sun-Star (California)
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