Calhoun’s Can(n)ons The Bay News, Morro Bay, CA
for February 15, 06 Septic Flu in Sewerville
Verdict First, Evidence later! Then it’s Hi-Yo, Silver, Awaaaaay!
Oh, dear, Roger Briggs, Executive Officer of the Regional NON-Water Quality Control Board, has hopped on his hobby horse and is galloping off into an extraordinarily embarrassing folly.
Roger has targeted 50 random people in the community with Cease & Desist Orders (CDO’s) requiring that they pump their septic tanks 6 times a year. Random? That’s like the Minister of Healthiness of Kloppkovnia declaring there’s an outbreak of avian flu, which he will “fix” by shooting 50 random ducks. Nevermind that the ducks don’t have avian flu, or even come from a province of Kloppkovnia that has avian flu in it. Nope, fifty random ducks will do the trick. And when they’re dead, our Minister of Healthiness will go shoot fifty more random ducks. See? Problem solved.
Don’t laugh, yet. It gets worse. Mr. Briggs stated in the Tribune that this pumping “will decrease the amount of suspected nitrate pollution from each tank by 22 percent.” There are and will be no studies or evidence presented to back up that claim. Weirder still, it’s not the nitrogen in the tank that’s of concern; it’s the total nitrogen load in pounds throughout the basin that should be the legal concern of the RWQCB. Randomly targeting tanks instead of focusing in on a coherent plan to deal with known high groundwater “hot spots” simply makes no sense as “science.”
As “politics,” however, conflation between the issuance of the CDO’s, guaranteed to scare the wits out of people, and the official start of the petition campaign to dissolve the CSD was an interesting piece of work, causing some suspicious minds to wonder, did a few someones in the community perhaps place a few untraceable phone calls here and there? Or was the conflation purest coincidence?
Well, divide and conquer is an old political tactic and frightened people may not stop to think that CDO’s and Dissolution Petitions will have absolutely no effect on each other. But it’s the illusion of “safety” that’s undoubtedly a critical selling point on the part of the Dissolvers and signers alike.
Ironically, the very CSD they wish to dissolve recently passed a resolution that they will be filing as an “Interested Party,” (boy, are they “interested”). The staff has already met with their counterparts at RWQCB to begin looking at some coherent, scientifically sound alternatives to reduce the nitrate load, a measure that may allow the Regional Board itself to come to their senses and replace Briggs’ Mad Scheme with a solution that would actually deliver more bang for the buck. In addition, the CSD will be doing everything they legally can to stand by The Los Osos Fifty, as well as the rest of the citizens as they come under the gun, while various folks throughout “The County” are already on record as wanting nothing to do with the beleaguered Citizens of Sewerville.
But, beyond the irony of politics, here’s the real folly in Briggs’ plan: Properly functioning septics should only need pumping every 3 -5 years. Pumping 6 times a year will simply harvest waste WATER. Since Mr. Briggs intends to target the entire prohibition zone, assume the average septic tank holds 1,000 gallons of wasteWATER. Multiply that by 4,000 homes and 6 times a year and you will see that the ultimate effect of this mad scheme will be the removal of 24 million gallons of WATER from our aquifer, WATER that will be transported to another county (Santa Maria) and dumped.
Right now, our lower aquifer is in serious overdraft and in danger from increasing salt water intrusion. Our upper aquifer is carrying an average nitrate load slightly higher than state allowed standards, a problem which will slowly be solved when the new sewer is built. But even with nitrates in it, the water is still in our aquifer. Transporting that water to Santa Maria removes it forever.
If you’re wondering where the “science” in all this is, you’ll have to wonder away. Most of the community would probably agree with CSD Director Cesena’s waggish comment that what we’re looking at here is political science. And that kind of science is what the Regional Water Quality Control Board is specifically forbidden to engage in.
I know, I know. Now you can laugh.