I was surprised by the inclusion of Paul Relis’s story titled “Flower Power – How Carp Valley Agriculture Was Preserved” in the Independent’s Earth Day ‘Eco-Victories’ section. As a Carpinteria resident, I recognize the benefits to the local economy, and reduction of urban sprawl, resulting from the preservation of agriculture in the Carpinteria Valley. However, I believe that a more balanced article would have also considered the legacy of environmental impact caused by intensive agriculture in this area.
One of the major issues Santa Barbara Channelkeeper tackled in the early 2000s was the systemic and decades-old practice of illegally discharging contaminated wastewater from Carp greenhouses into local creeks. Since that time, practices have significantly improved. However, Channelkeeper’s water-quality monitoring efforts still detect fertilizers, flower dyes, and other evidence of agricultural discharges in Carpinteria’s creeks on a regular basis. Shallow groundwater is also known to be contaminated throughout the area, and all of Carpinteria’s creeks are officially recognized as impaired by the State Water Board for a variety of agricultural pollutants.
It’s important to openly recognize the full spectrum of benefits and impacts that Carpinteria’s agriculture provides. Many growers throughout the region continue to make improvements to minimize their environmental footprint, but as poster-child for “Eco-victories,” Carp Valley agriculture may be a mixed bag at best.
Ben Pitterle is the director of watershed programs for Santa Barbara Channelkeeper.