On A Wing And A Prayer . . . Oh, Wait, We Forgot To Build The Wing
I attended the Feb. 15 “informational” meeting held by the Regional Water Quality Board “Prosecution Staff” for The Los Osos Forty Six, “randomly targeted citizens” who were sent Cease & Desist Orders (CDOs) and are facing a “trial” on March 23rd – the first of many, many since the entire town is targeted and will be getting CDOs as well.
I say, The Los Osos Forty Six since it started out as The Los Osos Fifty, but the RWQCB, in their haste, sent CDO letters to 5 people who shouldn’t have gotten one. Then the CSD requested and received from the State Water Board “designated” status in the upcoming Cease & Desist Hearings, thereby joining the other citizens randomly targeted.
The change in numbers for this first hearing is indicative of what I observed during the “informational” meeting: The RWQCB Prosecution Staff, the professional, “scientific/legal” staff that is preparing the recommendations and information that will be presented to the full Board is winging it, making things up as they go along, improvising. They also haven’t thought through the consequences of their proposed actions and, most interestingly, are curiously cavalier about those results. Even stranger, in a haste that is totally unjustified and historically peculiar, it appears they haven’t yet finished their homework and are shoving their ducks in a row as they pop up rather than having them in place in some coherent form before proceeding.
For example, the CDO recommendation to the full Board is that the entire prohibition zone be required to pump their tanks 6 times a year OR, on a case by case basis, homeowners can present an alternative plan to meet what appears to be a target reduction of discharge pollutions by 22%. However, when I asked one of their technical folk, “If a homeowner wanted to install one of the so-called enhanced onsite wastewater treatment units (there are many out there) what target numbers would the unit need to meet your requirements?”
Uh, they didn’t know, hadn’t thought about that and thought that suggestion would be a good idea but they would have to sit down and come up with some figures. One month away from the hearings in which a homeowner can propose an “alternative” and they don’t have any “alternative” standards set? They’ll have to think them up and get back to us on that?
Wait, it gets worse. Despite reading through all the information and sitting through 1 ½ hours of Q& A I still don’t know just WHAT the CDOs are trying to accomplish. First I’m told that the target is a 22% reduction of pollutants, but so far as I know, the Basin Plan/Resolution 83-13 sets a target of 7 mgl of nitrates for the area. So which is it? 22% reduction of all wastewater or 7 mgl of nitrates or what? And where did the 22% figure come from? The prohibition zone is under a standing cease and desist order of ZERO discharge, a number if applied to individual septics would require pumping every few days – a number that even the RWQCB staff has to know is simply undoable. So, why 22%?
As near as I can find out, that’s a guestimate, a mathematical formula that’s suppose to reduce what? nitrates? overall by 22% When I had previously emailed Matt Thompson, the staff’s Q&A Go-To Guy, to ask if there were any studies indicating that pumping a tank 6 x a year would actually reduce groundwater pollution, I was told that no studies were necessary. Even more interesting, the guestimates they’re using aren’t based on any actual water use records.
Apparently, the CSD has not released individual water use records for The Los Osos Forty Six (presumably the CSD refused on the basis of (legally unresolved) privacy issues). So everyone has been lumped into one pot and they’ll all be hanged for sheep even though they’re goats. Stranger still, IF the RWQCB were conducting these CDO hearings on a case by case basis (targeted citizens can request separate hearings and in order to preserve their rights they’d better think seriously about doing just that) and the Prosecution Staff needed those records in order to fairly fit the punishment to the crime, (i.e. a 22% reduction target based on ACTUAL water use and depth to groundwater and tank size and family size, actual total discharge numbers would result in a different pumping schedule for different people.) why didn’t they simply subpoena them?
Even scarier, if I heard correctly, one of the questions asked about what impact removing some 24 – 36 million gallons of wasteWATER a year out of our already seriously overdrafted lower aquifer would have and a staff member replied that he was unaware that Los Osos had an overdraft problem, he thought that one of the problems with Los Osos is that it had too much water, resulting in high-groundwater and flooding.
A key member of the RWQCB’s prosecution staff, the staff that’s responsible for preparing recommendations and presenting accurate, scientifically correct information to the full board, WAS NOT AWARE THAT LOS OSOS WAS ALREADY IN SERIOUS WATER OVERDRAFT? Did he not read the 2005 Cleath & Associates water report, a report that was present to Staff last year?
Furthermore, when asked about the impact such a proposed pumping scheme would have on our water supply, replied, “We’re not in the water supply business, we’re in the water quality business.” Apparently irony impaired, this Cal Poly-trained “scientist” was unaware that these issues are one in the same: No water quality, no water supply.
Be afraid, Los Osos. Be very afraid.
On a more interesting, if ironic note. On Thursday, the Bay News headline noted that the Taxpayers’ Watch group took their petitions to dissolve the CSD to LAFCo to begin the process of dissolution. The story notes, “Taxpayers’ Watch, which started the petition drive on Feb 2, wants the CSD dissolved so the county can take over the job of constructing a sewer project at the Tri W site.” And a flyer I received from the group clearly intended that the reader conflate the dissolution of the CSD and asking the County to “take charge“ with stopping the CDOs. At the RWQCB’s “informational meeting” the night before, two questions were asked and answered:
Would dissolving the CSD stop the CDOs? NO, it wouldn’t matter who was in charge, the CDOs are an entirely separate matter.
Do you (RWQCB prosecution staff) know if the County plans to build a project? NO. We don’t know of any project and have heard nothing about any county plans to build anything.
Even more interesting, while Taxpayers’ Watch claims that the CSD must be dissolved because they’re guilty of a whole litany of bad government offenses, steering committee member, Bob Crizer, is quoted in the same Bay News article as saying, “ . . . if the CSD agreed to surrender its powers to develop a wastewater project, they would not seek to have the CSD eliminated.”
And, there you have it! The real reason behind the dissolution movement: Folks behind this petition want “their” sewer plant on the Tri W site and in order to get it they’ll falsely conflate information in order to dump the very agency of home rule that many of them created in the first place. Truly a Medea Moment!
Abraham Lincoln was partially wrong – you CAN fool a whole lot of people most of the time. Especially when they’re scared and can be lied to sooooo easily.