Saturday, April 29, 2006

Oh, and while sticking an ice pick in my eyes for 12 hours, did I forget to mention . . .

So, when Dr. Wickham, B.S, M.S., PhD, was testifying about all things onsite and septic during the April 28th CDO hearing, (see blog posting below) Lori Okun, the RWQCB’s attorney, piped up to ask Dr. Wickham if there were any onsite systems that could be used for the same kind of mitigation that was supposed to be the result of this mad pumping scheme and Dr. Wickham said, Yes, many systems being used all over the country, so Lori asked, are they less expensive, and Dr. Wickham said, yes, and went on to mention several, some ranging from $2,000 to $4,000 and said most systems will pay for themselves in two years, so then I got dizzy and creeped out when I had to ask myself, Why in hell is Lori asking that question now?

And then it dawned on me, Is it possible the RWQCB staff had to ask that question now, because they never asked it BEFORE terrorizing a town, before wasting gazillions of hours of taxpayer’s time and money, before wasting their Board’s time (twelve hours so far, seventeen years to go), never asked, Is there a similar-or-less costly interim onsite equivalent to this mad pumping scheme that will give the same benefit without ruining the air quality and removing the dumping millions of gallons of water out of an already impaired watershed?

Instead, did they just run with the stupidest, most destructive, most ill-considered, wasteful cockamamie scheme they could think of, and only afterwards, when it was far too late, after all the damage was done, did they even bring the question up?

Not our responsibility to do research before offering options or proposals. Nope, not our job. Talk to the hand.

Are you afraid now? You’d better be. Really afraid.
Oh, Dear God, hand me that ice pick. I’m going to stab it in my eyes for 12 hours.

If you want to know how we got into the mess in Iraq and why we’re STILL there, waist deep in the big Muddy and the old fool says push on, tune in channel 20 and watch the Regional Water Quality Control Board’s April 28th CDO hearing.

If you want to watch a 10-hour film titled,”The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party Meets The Bataaan Death March in Slo Mo,” tune in channel 20 and watch the Regional Water Quality Control Board’s April 28th CDO hearing.

If you want to understand how a scientifically challenged STAFF of a government agency can paralyze then destroy a whole community with a scheme so ill-thought out, so scientifically unsound and so poorly planned – logistically speaking -- that their Board has to spend fifteen minutes deciding how best to deal with public comment slips, and you have to wonder how, if it takes that long to figure out that simple a procedure, how in living hell they’re going to be able to process and hear from 5,000 people at 15 minutes each, plus cross examination and you do the math in your head or on a little scrap of paper and it comes out to something like 6,250 10-hour days and you say Sweet Jesus didn’t RWQCB CEO Roger Briggs think about all this when he cooked up this insane scheme and figure he’ll realize somewhere in along 9:30 p.m. that he’s screwed up major big time and will tell his Board he’s decided to recommend they postpone this insane scheme so he can rethink it all and when he’s asked if he intends to continue processing the whole town of Los Osos his lips go all thin and his eyes squint down and he says Yes he intends to continue onward thereby proving he is incapable of dealing with either reality checks or informational feed-back loops and so you pray his Board will have more sense, but they sit there yawning, or deer-in-headlights, blank-faced wondering how in hell they ever got themselves into this ridiculous situation, and you’re hoping even one of them would burst out laughing, but they don’t and none of them has the sense God gave a goose to jump up and say THIS IS INSANE, STOP IT RIGHT NOW, WHO THOUGHT UP THIS LOONEY TUNE ANYWAY? but nobody does so they sit there, Prisoners of Folly while the clock ticks on and on and on, then tune in Channel 20 and watch the Regional Water Quality Control Board’s April 28th CDO hearing.

Tune in to see the RWQCB’s own Mr. Staff Science Guy tells the Board that pumping septic tanks 6 x a year won’t cause a problem, but under cross examination has to fess up that he’s had very little college training in on-site technologies. Amaze yourself to hear how poorly Mr. Science Guy understands the aquifer systems in Los Osos and how clear it is he has no clue as to where the drinking water of Los Osos, a community he’s working on destroying, comes from. His remarks make it clear he thinks we’re all rolling around out here with pigs, like Moonbeam McShine, while swilling down nitrate-laden water. When asked if Los Osos water violates any drinking water standards, he’s has no idea. (I’m not mentioning his name because he’s a nice young man and his bad preparation, (lazy, really. He wanted to know what kind of leach systems are in Los Osos so apparently he called ONE GUY and asked for his “guestimate.”) clear lack of training and experience (certainly compared to the credentials of Dr. Wickham, (see below) for example), shaky grasp on facts were cringe-making and I kept wondering if he were being used as a Scott McClellan-like stooge or fall guy – you know, Let’s let Mr. Science Guy stand up there and look the perfect fool so everybody can blame HIM for this mad scheme and allow us to skulk away from this train wreck saying, No, Nope, not me, I don’t know nothing about any of that, No, No, it’s all Mr. Science Guy’s doing. You know, take one for the team?)

Watch in amazement when RWQCB’s CEO Roger Briggs is asked if he has any direct, empirical evidence from the individual Los Osos 45 that their homes are actually polluting the aquifers and he has to fess up that no, he has no actual evidence. Seems that the staff and Board have been acting for years on “presumption” and “common knowledge,” as in, there’s a presumption that wastewater gets to groundwater and the common knowledge that no denitrification takes place in the soil and, as Mr. Science Guy had it, that nitrates just go straight down the soil column to groundwater with no denitrification taking place & etc. (Incorrect, by the way. Denitrification takes place in the soil. The trick is to have enough depth to groundwater to do it sufficiently.)

Then, just when you think it can’t get any more hideous, pay particular attention when Dr. Wickham, Bs, MS, PhD, owner of ABG Wastewater Solutions, the outfit that’s developed the Prana System of bio-remediation (his device has been installed at the Firehouse and is being tested now via lysimeters to see what kind of nitrate reduction is occurring in the leach field) and blam-blam-blam, the Board and audience gets a non-stop, detailed and informative lecture on How Septic Systems Function and learns, among other things that pumping tanks 6 times a year ends up destroying the mature biological colonies that make the system work properly, that pumping tanks 6 times a year will end up in discharges that are worse, that pumping tanks 6 times a year will result, in Dr. Wickham’s expert opinion, with leach field failures occurring within 2 years of such a regimen and that NOT pumping would result in less pollution than pumping.

When asked if there were cost effective measure for onsite mitigation, his reply was, yes, there are many and they’re in use all over the country. He also noted that in his expert opinion, there are other sources of nitrates in Los Osos and the only way to be sure what amount were coming from septics is to do a isotope tracking test. (It’s a relatively a simple test, fundable by grants, eagerly run by university PhD candidates, a test that drops isotopes down a toilet and tracks the discharge plume to see where it goes. That test has never been done, though residents have asked the county and RWQCB and old CSD to do exactly that. The isotope study is an important test because, as Dr. Wickham noted, it’s possible to spend $200 million dollars on a wastewater system and STILL end up with high nitrates in the water. This test was never done because “common knowledge” and “presumptions” trumped science.)

Well, of course common knowledge and presumptions would trump science. This is the RWQCB we’re talking about here. The same folks who apparently plan on spending 17.12 years prosecuting hapless citizens in The Great Nitrate Trial of the Century. Call Clarence Darrow and bring on the dancing monkeys.

The next installment of this Regulatory Gong Show will start again on May 11 & 12 sometime, with the beleaguered Los Osos 45 getting their 15 minutes of playing Perry Mason squeezed in among other Board Business.

Meantime, please watch this 10 hour proceeding and be afraid. Be very afraid.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Notice From RWQCB re April 28 hearings.

Note the date on the following email regarding the CDO hearings on April 28. I also received a 5 page document (which should be posted on the waterboard site as “Prosecution Staff objections Regarding Designated Parties Evidence …”) from Lori Okun, Senoir Staff Counsel, objecting to all kinds of things the CSD as “Designated Party” was planning on submitting in their evidence list as well as a note that “incorporating by reference” would also be objected to.

Which means that individual citizens will have to have the legal know-how to figure out, in less than 24 hours, which bits of their evidence may be tossed out even though they don’t have the documents in hand, just a coded numbers list and they’re expected to have that straightened out before the hearing or else their fifteen minutes to present their case will be spent trying to figure out which coded bit of documents won’t be allowed and so forth. This is known as a fair hearing.

Furthermore, the Prosecution Staff Evidence Objections is full of claims that all kinds of things are now irrelevant, just because the RWQCB’s prosecution team claims they’re irrelevant. Which means individual citizens will have less than 24 hours to figure out what part of their defense is now “irrelevant,” on the mere say-so of Lori Okun. Which puts me in mind of Alice in Wonderland’s Through the Looking Glass: “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.”

And then, on page five, the howler: Prosecution Staff objects to all documents that are newspaper articles, press releases, blogs or letters to the editor submitted by any party. This is not the type of evidence on which responsible persons are accustomed to rely in the conduct of serious affairs. There, all such documents should be stricken.

Do you hear that Tribune, the RWQCB does not believe that responsible persons are accustomed to getting information from their newspapers, not even when the Staff of the RWQCB regularly uses the Tribune to publicly threaten, announce, convey, comment and inform on all sorts of matters of concern to the community.

Even better, see the press release below, sent out by K.Blackshear @ addressed to . . . MEDIA, and note in her press release, she even cites a Telegram Tribune article, WHICH NO RESPONSIBLE PERSON WOULD EVER RELY ON WHILE CONDUCTING SERIOUS AFFAIRS, right?

April 27, 2006 Designated Parties, Interested Parties, and Media: [emphasis mine, this email is a press release] CEASE AND DESIST ORDERS AGAINST INDIVIDUALS IN THE LOS OSOS PROHIBITION ZONE: THE SCOPE OF THE APRIL 28 HEARING HAS NOT CHANGED A Telegram Tribune article from Tuesday, April 25, correctly states that the prosecution team of the Regional Water Board has dropped its intention to recommend that Los Osos residents be required to pump their septic tanks periodically at this time. See the article here: However, everyone should understand that the prosecution team is not deferring its recommendation for enforcement action on this matter. The April 28 hearing regarding the Cease and Desist Orders will occur as scheduled, and the Water Board may still consider periodic pumping requirements. The prosecution team simply makes a recommendation. The Water Board itself decides what action to take after considering all evidence and comments. The prosecution team's revised recommendation does not change the scope of the April 28 hearing. Any inference that there have been any "conclusions" in this case would be a disservice to the residents of Los Osos who may be subject to proposed enforcement actions at the hearing. The Regional Water Board may still order Los Osos residents to stop prohibited discharges from septic tanks; the Regional Water Board may still order residents to stop discharging from septic tanks within a relatively short period of time; the Regional Water Board may still, in disregard of the prosecuting staff's latest recommendation, order periodic pumping as originally proposed. In other words* no doors have been shut. As stated in the prosecution staff's notice posted on Monday, April 24, the scope of the hearing has not changed. Also, as a reminder, Water Board staff is divided into two teams for this case: the prosecution team and the advisory team. The Water Board must separate itself and its legal and policy advisors (advisory team) from inappropriate contact with the prosecution team in order to preserve its adjudicatory objectivity.

Sincerely, Michael ThomasAssistant Executive Officer (advisory team)

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Calhoun’s Can(n)ons, the Bay News, Morro Bay, CA, for April 26, 06

Mother Calhoun Explains It All

Dear Regional Water Quality Control Board,

You will be entering a mine field with this upcoming April 28th Cease & Desist Order hearing, so Mother Calhoun hopes you’ll think hard about the advice she’s about to share with you:

GIGO. Garbage In, Garbage Out. Elected and appointed boards are utterly and critically dependent on their staff to give them correct information. Be warned. Most of what you’ve been told about Los Osos and the preconceived information you appear to have rattling around in your heads is just plain wrong. Los Osos is not “anti-sewer.” It’s anti -unaffordable ginormous sewer plant in the middle of town. Big difference.

Don Corleone was right. The Godfather knew it’s not personal, it’s business. When you or your staff slip out of neutral and start ramping up into nose-out-of-joint, steam-coming-out-of-the-ears, old-tapes-running-in-the-head mode, it’s stopped being business. Bruised egos, bad information, incompetent bungling, CYA scrambling, too-cozy-by-far collusion always results in really bad blowback. Ethically superior, scientifically sound regulatory agencies play a vital and much needed role in protecting the public. Run amok, badly informed, ego-driven, scientifically unsound, politically compromised, bungling regulators are worse than useless; they are a danger to the whole delicate system of checks and balance. Don’t go there.

Since most of you are from “out of town” and only breeze through for a few days at a time, it’s understandable that what you know about a region you are dealing with may be limited and therefore your dependence on the local “staff” is doubly critical. But you really have a responsibility to keep your eyes open. When it becomes clear to you that during an “under oath” factual presentation one of your key “scientific” staff members gave you out of date data, pay attention! If your staff isn’t up to speed, your decisions will also be embarrassingly, woefully out of date.

Beware of the Law of Unintended Consequences. If you’re contemplating some action, failure to think it through can result in disaster. For example, at the official CDO informational meeting, your key “Mr. Official Go-To Water Engineer Science Guy” stated that he was “unaware that Los Osos is in [water] overdraft.” Your staff is asking you to vote to remove from the Los Osos watershed some 36 million gallons of wasteWATER every year and your lead Science Guy is “unaware that Los Osos is in [water] overdraft?” This is not good. Bridge out, slow to 60.

Since everyone assumes this whole mess will end up in court, do you really want to give anyone a shot at revisiting Resolution 83-13, in court, under oath, under penalty of perjury? Can that resolution or your board and staff withstand the questions that surely will be raised by experts in best-use water management practices, sustainability, wastewater reuse, basin plan management, updated water studies and/or the newest septic/bioremediation methods?

And, finally, TV’s Dr. Phil is fond of asking squabbling couples if they’re “rights fighters,” – my way or the highway – and if their go-nowhere, solve-nothing rights fighting is “working for them.” Have the ACL’s and CDO’s moved a wastewater treatment plan one step closer to completion or not? You’re in the business of Water Quality, so please tell Mother Calhoun, How’s all this working for ya?

Months ago, Regional Water Board member Mr. Shallcross expressed a hope that one day Los Osos would come together and sit around and sing “Kumbaya.” Weirdly, against enormous odds and in spite of active attempts to target and financially harm them with the Regional Board’s pointless pumping scheme, the community and the CSD are actually moving ahead on a wastewater project. There may not be actual singing going on, but the results of the updated sewer project report are due to go before the community in about 17 weeks. If Mr. Shallcross bothers to listen carefully that day, he might actually be able to hear this town humming a few bars of his song.

In the meantime, there it is: The critical question that the RWQCB will answer on April 28th: Do you want to be a rock in the road, useful only for time-and-money-wasting delay, delay, delay? Or do you want a sustainable, water-smart, community supported wastewater project to get up and running as fast as possible? The community and the CSD is moving forward. So, what are you going to do? Block the road? Or move forward, too? The choice is yours alone to make.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Proposed Interested Party Public Comment at the April 28, 2006 CDO hearings
at the RWQCB Offices, SLO, CA.

Here’s what I would like to say to the Regional Water Quality Control Board, during my supposed 2 minutes of public comment. This won’t happen because in the time allotted for this cattle-call “Show Trial of the Los Osos 45”, the targeted 45 will only have 15 minutes each to present their case, call witnesses, cross examine witnesses, & etc. I know, it’s funny. Reminds me of the hilarious sketch on the old Monty Python Flying Circus Show – The Summarize Proust’s Rememberance of Things Past In 30 Seconds Gong Show spoof. The sly joke, of course, was that Proust’s monumental work is seven volumes long and couldn’t be summarized in 30 hours let alone 30 seconds. But then that’s what this show trial is all about – entertainment and instruction for the Denizens of Dogpatch, followed by the public hanging. Justice is served. Let the show begin.

Perception becomes reality when perception is acted on as if it were “fact.”

At the December ACL hearings, one of your key staff members was charged with giving an historic “overview” of Los Osos/RWQCB history. He presented old, out of date nitrate/water testing data as if it were current and correct. At that same meeting, Rob Miller, the CSD’s engineering advisor, later presented corrected, up-to-date information from the most recent Cleath and Associates water report. That report had been given to your staff months before and was available for the presentation.

At the CDO informational meeting in January, one of your key staff members stated that “he was unaware that Los Osos was in (water) overdraft.” That a key staff member charged with proposing the present CDO pumping scheme was “unaware” of the extremely serious salt-water intrusion due to the overdraft facing Los Osos was startling.

Several days before this hearing, the Staff suddenly changed direction after they heard from the Air Pollution Control District that the APCD is “concerned that bimonthly pumping . . . “may cause significant adverse impacts.” Staff further stated that “if necessary,” they’ll “study potential impacts of pumping requirements.” The fact that these “potential impacts” weren’t studied and resolved before these CDOs were issued, indicated to me that the “facts” in this case were never relevant. Instead, what your staff intended was to use this CDO hearing as a political tool to accomplish a political goal – a complete violation of the process.

I have heard from this Board and many others outside Los Osos the mantra that “Everyone knows . . . You people in Los Osos are anti-sewer.” Like the examples given above, this “fact” is either out of date or simply wrong. But it is a perfect example of how a wrong fact can become a perception that then becomes reality. After all, Everyone Knows that everyone in Los Osos is anti-sewer, aren’t they?

Unless they are directly hands-on, all Boards must rely on “facts” given to them by others. Wrong facts, out of date data, biased information, just plain “bad science,” disregarding facts in order to force a political goal, all result in wrong perceptions and wrong perceptions result in wrong decisions.

And wrong decisions can have devastating consequences, not only to a community like Los Osos, but to the very Board that is charged with choosing the best course of action.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Koff, Koff, Koff, are those the Air Pollution Control District Officers I see in your pocket, or are you just glad to see me?

Below is the most recent revision from the RWQCB on the April 28 CDO Dog & Pony Show. There’s a few very interesting points to note. One is in the Notice of Revision below where it states, “The Prosecution Staff intends to continue working with APCD on this issue, and, if necessary, study potential impacts of pumping requirements.”

IF NECESSARY? STUDY POTENTIAL IMPACTS? Hello? Isn’t that something that should have been done BEFORE issuing the CDOs?

The second thing of interest is in section B: Interim Compliance Requirements, wherein the RWQCB is NOW considering something that should have been done YEARS AGO: (1) have the contents of the Septic System pumped and (2) obtain a report by the County of San Luis Obispo, a septic tank pumper or other inspector approved by the Executive Officer, that either describes recommended repairs to the Septic System or states that no repairs are necessary. And etc.

In other words, the RWQCB – now – is recommending that all the tanks in the prohibition zone be . . . inspected. Hello? Isn’t that something that should have been done BEFORE issuing the CDOs? Isn’t that something residents have been hollering about doing for years while the RWQCB and the County turned a deaf ear? You know, under Resolution 83-12, form a Septic Management District and inspect and repair all the tanks? Hello?

And, finally, please note that “The County of San Luis Obispo” – the Runaway Bride in all this -- NOW appears in the suggested interim compliance requirements. And here we’ve been told that the county has no involvement with Los Osos, noooo, no way, no how. Not our tanks, not our problem, buh-bye.

Still missing, of course, are “potential impacts” on removing millions of gallons of water from the watershed and other issues that, “if necessary,” still need to be resolved. A prudent regulatory agency would have postponed the hearing in light of these, uh, unresolved potential impacts, but not our stalwart RWQCB. Nossir! The CDO hearing will march forward blindly into the great unknown. Theirs is not to wonder why . . . . .

R3-2006-1000 THROUGH R3-2006-1049
The Prosecution Team of the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board (Central Coast Water Board, or Water Board) has decided not to recommend bimonthly septic tank pumping at this time. We have consulted with the Air Pollution Control District. APCD representatives are concerned that bimonthly pumping of approximately 4300 septic systems may cause significant adverse impacts. The Prosecution Staff intends to continue working with APCD on this issue, and, if necessary, study potential impacts of pumping requirements. We may recommend the Water Board require a pumping regime in future orders after further consideration of these issues.
At the April 28 hearing, the Prosecution Team will recommend the Water Board wait until it has additional information before considering this requirement. A copy of the revised Cease and Desist Order template is attached. This revision does not change the scope of the hearing, unless the Chair issues a revised hearing notice or hearing procedures. The Central Coast Water Board may still decide to consider issuing pumping requirements at this time.

The Revision:

895 Aerovista Place, Suite 101
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
APN [#]
The California Regional Water Quality Control Board, Central Coast Region (hereafter Water
Board), finds:
1. ___________ own(s) and operate(s) an on-site wastewater treatment and disposal system
(Septic System) at (Site) in Los Osos, California. The Site is a residence. The Septic System
consists of a septic tank that discharges wastewater to an on-site subsurface disposal facility.
_____ is/are referred to in this Order as “Discharger.”
2. The Site has no wastewater disposal facility other than the Septic System. Waste generated at
the Site includes human waste and wastewater from toilets and from domestic activities such as
bathing, laundry, dishwashing and disposal of garbage.
3. This waste is discharged to the Septic System. Liquid waste then discharges from the Septic
System and eventually to groundwater.
2. The discharge of waste from the Septic System violates a prohibition of waste discharge from
individual sewage disposal systems set forth in the Water Quality Control Plan, Central Coast
Basin (Basin Plan). ). The Water Board adopted the prohibition on September 16, 1983. The
Basin Plan prohibition specifies, in part (page IV-67):
“3. Discharges from individual and community sewage disposal systems are prohibited
effective November 1, 1988, in Los Osos/Baywood Park area depicted in the prohibition
boundary map included as Attachment “A” of Resolution 83-13”.
CDO No. R3-2006-«R32006» -2- April 28, 2006
The prohibition boundary map is contained in Appendix A-30 of the Basin Plan. The Site is
within the prohibition area.
4. On January 27, 2006 and February 28, 2006, notice was provided to the Discharger and other
affected persons regarding the Water Board’s consideration of this Order.
5. The Water Board, on April 28, 2006, in San Luis Obispo, California, held a public hearing and
heard evidence regarding this Order.
6. This Order includes monitoring and reporting requirements pursuant to Water Code Section
13267. The Water Board needs the required information in order to assess compliance with the
Basin Plan and this Order, and to ensure that pollutant loading within the prohibition area is
minimized to the extent possible. The Discharger is required to provide this information
because the Discharger is the owner and/or operator of the Septic System. The staff report that
accompanied the draft order includes additional evidence in support of this requirement. The
Water Board adopted the prohibition in 1983, and it went into effect in 1988, and the
Discharger has incurred little or no costs since then to comply with the prohibition. The burden
of any monitoring or reporting required by this Order is reasonable in light of the severe
pollution that has resulted from operation of septic systems in the prohibition area, and the long
history of violations of the prohibition at the Site.
7.If the Discharger elects to comply with Part B of this Order by pumping the Septic System, this
Order includes minimal monitoring and reporting requirements that will have negligible costs.
If the Discharger elects to propose an alternative system, the Discharger will incur additional
monitoring and reporting costs, as described below. A reduced scope of monitoring and
reporting will not adequately protect water quality because alternative systems are difficult to
operate and maintain, and do not achieve adequate pollutant reduction if not properly operated.
The Water Board needs the required information to ensure optimal operation of alternative
systems. Moreover, the Water Board adopted the prohibition in 1983, and it went into effect in
1988, and the Discharger has incurred little or no costs since then to comply with the
prohibition. The burden of any monitoring or reporting required by this Order is reasonable in
light of the severe pollution that has resulted from operation of septic systems in the prohibition
area, and the long history of violations of the prohibition at the Site.
7. The technical report required by Section A.43.b or 5 4 (as applicable) is necessary to determine
that any alternative to connecting to a community sewer system meets applicable legal
requirements, including the septic system discharge prohibition, and to assess compliance with
Paragraph A.1 of this Order.
9.8. Alternatives proposed to comply with this Order may be subject to permitting requirements,
including the requirement to obtain waste discharge requirements. Nothing in this Order
relieves the Discharger of the obligation to obtain any necessary permit or waste discharge
10.9. This enforcement action is being taken for the protection of natural resources and the
environment and as such is exempt from the provisions of the California Environmental
CDO No. R3-2006-«R32006» -3- April 28, 2006
Quality Act (Sections 15307, 15308, and 15321, Chapter 3, Division 6, Title 14, California
Code of Regulations, “CEQA”). In addition, the Septic System is an existing facility and this
Order allows no expansion of use beyond that previously existing so this enforcement action is
exempt from the provisions of CEQA (Section 15301, Chapter 3, Division 6, Title 14,
California Code of Regulations).
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED, pursuant to Sections 13260, 13267 and 13301 of the California
Water Code, that the Discharger shall comply with the following requirements:
1. Discharger shall cease all discharges from the Septic System no later than the earlier of (i)
January 1, 2010, or (ii) 60 days after the availability of a community sewage treatment
2. The due date in Section A.1 cannot be extended except by an amendment to this Order by
the Water Board.
3. This Paragraph 3 applies if a community treatment plant and sewer system will be available
to the Discharger no later than January 1, 2010. The Discharger shall submit the following
information no later than the earlier of (i) June 30, 2009, or (ii) 180 days before the
expected completion date; either:
a. A statement that the Discharger agrees to connect to the community sewage
treatment plant within 60 days after the sewage treatment plant becomes available;
b. A technical report proposing an alternative method of complying with Paragraph
A.1. The proposed alternative must be adequate to cease discharges from the Septic
System by the date in Paragraph A.1, and must include a proposed monitoring and
reporting plan. If the alternative involves a discharge of waste that could affect
waters of the State, the report shall be in the form of a report of waste discharge.
“Waters of the State” is defined in Water Code Section 13050(e). “Report of waste
discharge” means a report that complies with Water Code Section 13260 and, if
applicable, Water Code Section 13376.
4. This Paragraph 4 applies if no community treatment plant and sewer system will be
available to the Discharger by January 1, 2010. By June 30, 2009, the Discharger shall
submit a technical report proposing a method of complying with Paragraph A.1. The
proposed alternative must be adequate to cease discharges from the Septic System by the
date in Paragraph A.1, and must include a proposed monitoring and reporting plan. If the
alternative involves a discharge of waste that could affect waters of the State, the report
shall be in the form of a report of waste discharge. “Waters of the State” is defined in
Water Code Section 13050(e). “Report of waste discharge” means a report that complies
with Water Code Section 13260 and, if applicable, Water Code Section 13376.
CDO No. R3-2006-«R32006» -4- April 28, 2006
5. Nothing in this Order authorizes discharges from the Septic System at any time, whether
before or after the date in Paragraph A.1.

1. The Discharger must either pump out the contents of its Septic System no less frequently
than once every two months, or propose an alternative that will achieve comparable water
quality protection.
2. If the Discharger elects to comply with Paragraph B.1 by pumping:
a.The Discharger shall commence pumping no later than 60 days after the date of this
b.By three months after the date of this Order, the Discharger shall (1) have the contents of
the Septic System pumped, and (2) obtain a report by the County of San Luis Obispo, a septic
tank pumper or other inspector approved by the Executive Officer, that either describes
recommended repairs to the Septic System or states that no repairs are necessary. If the
Discharger disagrees with any repair recommendation, the Discharger shall provide
justification to the Executive Officer no later than four months after the date of this Order
explaining why the repairs are not necessary. Unless Water Board staff agrees, in writing, that
any recommended repair is not necessary, the Discharger shall provide documentation no later
than February 1, 2007 that the Discharger has complied with these pumping, inspection and
repair requirements.repairs have been completed in the first annual report required by
Paragraph B.2.c.
c.The Discharger shall provide receipts or other written evidence that the Discharger
has complied with these requirements. The Discharger shall provide these receipts
to the Water Board no later than February 1 of each year, commencing with
February 1, 2007.
3.If the Discharger elects to comply with Paragraph B.1 by a method other than pumping the
contents of its Septic System every two months:
a.The Discharger shall submit a written proposal for the alternative compliance method
no later than sixty days after the date of this Order. The proposal shall include a
proposed schedule for installation of the alternative method. The written proposal
shall include a proposed monitoring and reporting plan.
b.The Discharger shall comply with the requirements of Paragraph 2 until the
alternative compliance method is approved in writing by Water Board staff and is
fully operational. Upon approval of the Discharger’s proposal, the due dates in the
installation schedule and in the monitoring and reporting plan shall become
enforceable requirements of this Order. The Executive Officer shall modify the
monitoring and reporting plan as necessary before approving the proposal and
monitoring and reporting plan.

CDO No. R3-2006-«R32006» -5- April 28, 2006
1. All reports, receipts, notifications and other documents the Discharger submits pursuant to
the Order (including Paragraph A.3 of this Order) shall be accompanied by a statement
from the Discharger stating: “I certify under penalty of perjury that the attached documents
were prepared at my request and under my supervision, and to the best of my knowledge
are true, accurate and complete. I understand that there are significant penalties for
providing false or incomplete information, including the possibility of criminal fines or
2. The Executive Officer may extend the due date for any interim or reporting requirement of
Section A (other than Section A.1) or Section B for up to ninety days for circumstances
beyond the Discharger’s reasonable control.
3. If more than one person or entity is a “Discharger” subject to this Order, compliance by any
of those persons or entities with the requirements of this Order constitutes compliance by
all Dischargers. Multiple submissions are not required. However, all named Dischargers
are responsible for compliance with all requirements of this Order, and will be subject to
enforcement for any non-compliance. Agreements among Dischargers regarding which of
them will comply with Water Board requirements is not binding on the Water Board and
does not protect any party from enforcement actions.
4. Discharger shall inform any subsequent owner or occupant at the Site of this Order and
provide a copy of the Order.
5. The property owner shall notify the Executive Officer in writing of any contemplated
transfer of ownership at least 30 days prior to transfer of ownership.
6. The property owner shall notify the Executive Officer in writing of the name of any new
occupant within 30 days after the new occupant takes occupancy.
7. If, in the opinion of the Executive Officer, the Discharger fails to comply with any
provision of this Order, then the Executive Officer may apply to the Attorney General for
judicial enforcement or issue a complaint for Administrative Civil Liability.
I, Roger W. Briggs, Executive Officer, do hereby certify the foregoing is a full, true, and correct
copy of an Order adopted by the California Regional Water Quality Control Board, Central Coast
Region, on April 28, 2006.
CDO No. R3-2006-«R32006» -6- April 28, 2006
Executive Officer

Sunday, April 23, 2006

I Said Whaaaaat? Or How the RWQCB’s Phony Straw Man Meets Mr. Science Guy

In their “Responses to Technical Evidence and Comments submitted in Regards to Cease and Desist Orders, Los Osos,” April 19th document I was amazed to find on page 6, second paragraph, that the staff had written:

“Another commenter, Interested Party Ann Calhoun, said that Dr. John Alexander has an effective on-site nitrogen removal system that has been proven to the “RB staff’s satisfaction.” Staff met with Dr. Alexander a few years ago and he indicated that his system would not be applicable to residential use. Staff understands that the system is not commercially available. Approximately 15 years ago, Dr. Alexander pilot tested his galvanic agglutinator at the Morro Bay/Cayucos Wastewater Treatment Plant. The system did not function properly Dr. Alexander claimed that that particular failure was due to the limited size of the project (pilot test was conducted with a 55 gal drum.) Contrary to Ms. Calhoun’s claim, the system has not been proven to “staff’s satisfaction.”

Contrary to Ms. Calhoun’s claim? Really?

Here’s what I actually wrote in my Feb 21 “Interested Party” letter: “Furthermore, if your interest in the interim nitrate reduction of the basin (until a new sewer plant is built and running), I would urge your Board to require that your Staff certify acceptable enhanced on-site systems for interim use. For example, Dr. Alexander of Cayucos, has stated that he has a $4,000 until that he claims will remove 98% of nitrates from septic discharges. He further claims that he has proven his tested results to the RWQCB staff’s satisfaction. IF THAT IS TRUE, then Dr. Alexander’s system would be a scientifically better alternative for removing nitrates than your pumping scheme , but it would not be financially better UNLESS you waive your $900 a year “discharge” and testing fees. In short, IF Dr. Alexander’s system actually works, the community would have a much better alternative, but ONLY if your Board made it financially viable

So the choice again comes down to a simple question: Do you want the community to simply waste money and resources or do you want them to dramatically reduce the nitrate load of the basin while the new sewer plant is being built?” (Italics, bold and capitalization in the original.)

You see the difference between the two? Good, I thought you would. Yet the RWQCB’s mischaracterization of my comment is in their official “reply.” It is also a false Straw Man.

Interestingly, in their reply, I noted that they did not address the point of my comment: The target nitrate reduction for the pumping scheme is about 20 – 22%. Since writing my Interested Party Letter, the Prana system has been installed at the Firehouse and we’ll see what the testing meters will say in a few months.

However, the RWQCB’s Technical Response noted that while there were dozens of various onsite systems, “only 14 of the 37 technologies for which performance data were available are rated to treat domestic wastewater to less than 10 mg/L total nitrogen – the minimum performance necessary to eventually restore Los Osos’s groundwater to drinking water standards.”

Ah, but you see the problem there? The pumping scheme is supposed to be a temporary “fix” to reduce the nitrogen load by about 20-22% -- NOT a permanent solution of the “less than 10 mg/L” which is the target for any sewer system.

Do any of these 14 technologies reduce nitrates by about 20% and do it onsite without removing millions of gallons of water out of the basin and are any of them economically feasible as an interim solution, as cheap or cheaper than pumping? I asked the designer of the Prana system and he said he was sure he could meet that 20% target goal (we’ll see when the numbers come in) and at $4,000 per unitl, it’s certainly within the cost parameters .But what about any of the other 14 systems studied and rated? Who knows. The Technical Response document doesn’t say.

My original comment pointed to that very question. But, to date, I have received no answer. Just this Official misquoted and mischaracterized Phony Straw Man set up in order to support a preordained decision.

Hey, We’re the RWQCB! Science, and technology and common sense need not apply.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

START YOUR CLOCKS NOW: If You Received a CDO, On April 28th, you will have fifteen minutes to present your case, cross examine witnesses, present evidence, etc. You will NOT be allowed to repeat testimony from other parties and of course, you will or will not be allowed whatever the Chairman determines you will or will not be allowed to present. If your individual case is "scientifically" complicated and involves a lot of technical experts, tough. Fifteen minutes, buster. Thus are your "rights" secured. All fifteen minutes of them. Also remember, this will be considered a "fair" hearing. Fifteen minutes. Oh, and if you don't show up and don't receive a continuance, you "will be in default and will be deemed to have waived the right to testify at the hearing," which may put you out of the "rights" loop forever. So, Good luck to us all in the land of the free, home of the brave, fifteen minutes of justice for all. The Proceedings for April 28, 2006 CDO hearings now online at
God Bless The Child . . .

The following appeared on page 8 of the April 19th Bay News. While the amount the contractors donated would just be added to their bill as a part of doing business (ironically to be paid for by the homeowners in the prohibition zone, had the recall failed), it is not known if Pandora & Company charged the Save the Dream organization for sending an email to the Regional Water Quality Control Board’s CEO Roger Briggs begging him to fine the CSD out of existence when it became clear the recall would succeed.

Dreams Spent A Nightmare Amount of Money

The Save the Dream group spent more than twice as much s the Los Osos Community Services District Recall Committee in last September’s election for the ages, a review of campaign spending documents reveals.

The disclosure statements are submitted to the County Clerk’s Election Office, and show the victorious Recall Committee received $58,097 in contributions, while Save the Dreamers picked up $133,763.

Save the Dream received $10,000 each from sewer contractors Barnard Construction and Montgomery Watson Harza; $2,000 from Bonaire Investments; $2,000 from Van Beurden Insurance Services; and $7,300 from Anastasi Construction. They also received a $15,000 loan from Hand Watterworth.

Pandora & Company was paid $3,869 for public relations services, according to the documents.

The Recall Committee received $3,995 from Chuck Cesena, who went on to assume a seat on the CSD Board of Directors. James Tkach, an engineer for Caltrans, anted up $1,359. Activist Gail McPherson donated $850, and Los Osos resident Katherine Ramano contributed $1,000.

Among non-monetary contributions for the recall effort was $1,215 worth of jewelry donated by Bo and Lacey Cooper for use at a silent auction.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Letters, we get letters . . .In the April 19, Bay News story about the court decision overturning Measure B, it was noted that the decision might open “the door to the possibility of restarting construction of a downtown sewer. “’There are letters going off to the CSD and (State Assemblyman Sam) Blakeslee asking them to restart the project,’ said Bob Crizer, a local contractor who is a member of Taxpayers Watch. ‘It (the ruling) just means they can’t hide behind that as a reason not to build the plant.’”

The story continued to note that the CSD has the power to “create their own siting ordinance,” which was to be on the agenda for the April 20th meeting, but has now been postponed until further notice (maybe the CSD is waiting for the May 30 final appeal?)

At any rate, since Taxpayers Watch is sending off letters to (Sam), lobbying him to help put the sewer plant back in the middle of town, here’s a letter, written by a regular member of the community (not some sewer expert or Board Watcher) that is striking to me for it’s brevity and its focus on two absolutely salient points that keep getting lost: (1) The community voted for a $35 million pond system and still have no idea WHY the previous board clung to the original site when it no longer made sense to do so and (2) most people are scared and tired of fighting and feel they “had no ‘real’ choice but to revert to the old site and the old plant and let someone else deal with it.” (And guess who told them (falsely) there were NO other options, that Tri-W was the ONLY one, and repeatedly denied a vote on any choices & etc.? Yep, recalled Board members, some of whom have morphed into Taxpayers Watch, a group now falsely conflating dissolution with protection from the CDOs and now lobbying to get their sewer plant back into the middle of town.)

I have long maintained that The Sewer Wars are both incredibly complex and incredibly simple. Ms. McMahon nails the key narrative – it actually IS simple. I further suspect that her take on how the majority of our community really feels about all of this is very near the mark. The minor redaction was at the request of the author, letter reprinted with permission.

To Whom It May Concern:

Please count my voice in support of NO SEWER PLANT BUILDING on the TRI W site!
Regardless of Measure B, that project was too expensive and there were too many stones left unturned as regards the options for a sewer. As the owner of two business in Los Osos, I believe it's imperative that we allow this CSD Board to do their job and go forward with the best solution available. BUT NOT ON TRI-W!

In all the battles and confusion, everyone seems to have forgotten that the only reason the TRI-W site was originally chosen was because they were going to put in a ponding system. When the ponds were found inadequate - AT THAT SITE - instead of choosing a site out of town where the ponds would work or if needed, a more traditional plant or system could go, for whatever reason, political or otherwise, they chose to keep this site for ANY type of system they would use. It never made any sense and they made the choice to stick to that site long after they knew their original plan was no longer viable. It made no sense to the majority of us then - it makes less sense now.

It may be hard for you to determine but almost the whole community would like to see it elsewhere - but everyone is tired of the fighting and they believe that they have no "real" choice but to revert to the old site and the old plant and let someone else deal with it. People are scared and the fear tactics being used by the OLD CSD BOARD and the taxpayer group are fueling those fears. I work with many, many people here in town, both with [my] company and my [other business]. I assure you, TRI-W is not the choice, nor is dissolving our ability to govern our own community. And I ask you. . . why is any one, or any agency, or any other entity, still dealing and listening to the very people that were voted out and that publicly stated they would scorch this town, bankrupt it, and fine it out of existence? These aren't my words, imagined or otherwise - these words by several of the old CSD Board members are on file, on tape, on video. Why do they still have the ear of these other agencies or governing bodies??

I ask you to please support the current CSD Board and do what you can to ensure their success.

Very kindly yours,

Paula McMahon
Baywood Park, CA

More Letters:
Gail Wilcox, Deputy County Administrative Officer sent a letter to Paul Hood of LAFCO responding to his writing SLO CEO David Edge requesting that Edge be taken out of the loop since he lives in Los Osos and so will not be directly participating in “matters relating to the LOCSD Petition for Dissolution.”
Her letter, dated March 24, notes that, “At a staff level, our first reaction to your letter is that if the LOCSD is dissolved, the consequences for the County taxpayers in general could be very negative in at least two ways: “ LOCSD Liabilities May be Substantial . . .” since the county would be placed in “the very difficult position of prosecuting or defending LOCSD action or decisions that the County had no role in developing. There would be a negative impact on the County General Fund if it were costly to continue to defend or prosecute these lawsuits, especially if the LOCSD’s position turns out to be untenable and former LOCSD revenue streams prove inadequate to address the ramifications of such. Iit is not clear at this point how LAFCO could impose any conditions on dissolution that could fully mitigate the negative impacts that would be associated with requiring the County to take over existing litigation matters.”

And, “Responsibility for Wastewater Solution” . . . “upon dissolution, the County (by default) would become the agency responsible for developing a wastewater solution for LOCSD. The County (before formation of the LOCSD) and the LOCSD have both so far been unable to get the necessary facilities constructed due to determined opposition by some LOCSD residents. There is no assurance that this opposition would disappear if the LOCSD dissolved. Therefore, responsibility for finding a wastewater solution may put the General Fund at risk for (1) some or all of the expense of implementing a solution, and (2) fines and penalties that may result if a solution cannot be implemented in a timely manner.”

And, interestingly, “Additionally, there could be new litigation initiated against LAFCO and/or the County disputing the dissolution process itself and the disposition of District assets. Further, potential challenges to the validity of the District’s assessments for sewer services not delivered could result in demands for repayment of assessments already paid. And, any decision to select a new site for a treatment plan would almost certainly generate legal challenges.”

The letter lists a whole raft of financial information that’s still needed before any decision can be made. And notes, “We believe LAFCO has the tools to obtain this information and that dissolution cannot be approved without first obtaining this information and then developing reasonable conditions to mitigate the impacts on the County. If the information cannot be obtained, and reasonable conditions cannot be developed to protect the County, we believe that LAFCO should deny the petition.”

And then closes by noting that “LAFCO should look at the structural issues. In other words, dissolution of a CSD should only be granted if both (1) there is something bout the structure or legal authority of the CSD that is inadequate to address the needs of the residences, and (2) the County as successor of the CSD would have a structure or legal authority that the CSD lacks that gives it an inherent advantage over the CSD. In the opinion of staff, neither of these conditions exists. The County would have no more legal authority than the CSD and would have to finance any wastewater project in much the same way as the CSD would.”

To all of this I would add that if I’m not mistaken, I believe there is a MOU between the County and the RWQCB that notes that the County has control over siting and permitting septic tanks in consultation with the RWQCB, which may mean that the Cunty may end up being dragged into court to “explain” how and why it kept issuing septic tank permits long after it was safe or prudent to do so, thereby allowing a good number of Los Osos residents unknowingly to go into harm’s way as well and overburdening the rest of the community’s upper aquifer thereby tipping the whole community into the harm’s way of CDOs, ACL fines, etc. That would be an interesting “liability” to snoop into, methinks.

At any rate, from Ms. Wilcox letter, I would have to assume that the County still views Los Osos as its much despised Red Haired Stepchild and will not lift a finger to support dissolution or anything else. Sort of like their refusing to participate in the upcoming April 28th CDO hearings as a designated party, even though they’re gonna get served CDO papers like the rest of us.

Aw, dang. And here Taxpayers’ Watch wanted us to believe that the County loved us and all we’d have to do is sign the dissolution petition and Uncle County Daddy would make the mean old RWQCB boogeymen go away and would immediately start rebuilding our beloved ginormous sewer plant in the middle of town and we could all live happily ever after, Tra-La.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Time Tripping

On Monday, my sister and I hopped aboard a Silver Bay (Morro Bay) tour bus for a day trip down to see the newly reopened Getty Villa in Malibu. The four acre place is listed as being in Malibu, but is actually closer to Pacific Palisades and Santa Monica. On the other hand, maybe it IS in Malibu, because it appears that Malibu must be the world’s longest city, growing north and south for miles and miles on either side of the old Malibu pier.

The villa was built in 1968 as a recreation of a first-century Roman country home, the Villa dei Papiri, to house Getty’s extensive collection of Greek and Roman antiquities. It was opened to the public in 1974. While the bottom floor of the old museum housed Greco/Roman antiquities, upstairs there were whole rooms of 18th century French Rococo furniture as well as an extensive collection of medieval illuminated manuscripts and a Van Gogh or two. The place was always an improbable jumble.

Since the new, GINORMOUS Getty Museum in Westwood has opened, the non-Greco/Roman stuff has been moved there. The Villa was then closed for years of renovation and some add-ons (an amphitheatre and an annoyingly ugly cement coffee shop/gift store built into the side of the hill.) The collection in the villa, however, is now a wonderfully comfortable aesthetic fit. And with a $7-8 parking reservation fee, it’s open for business.

For me the trip was a case of time travel. When I lived in L.A., I used to trot up there when the mood struck. Parking was free, there was no entrance fee, all you needed was a parking reservation in the underground garage. Then you were free to wander around the beautiful outer peristyle, sniff around in the herb garden, poke your nose in all the galleries. It was pure bliss, and I returned often just to watch the seasonal changes in the gardens. Even a wet, cold winter’s day standing in the deserted Inner Peristyle and listening to the rain plinking down in the central pool had is chilly joys.

If you haven’t had the pleasure of ever seeing this place, it’s worth the trip, whether by day tripping bus tour or if you want to just get a parking reservation and head off down the coast to spend a few hours just driving through Malibu, Malibu, Malibu, are we still in Malibu?. Further information can be had at the Getty Web site at (And while you’re at it, don’t miss the spectacular GINORMOUS Getty museum further up the road. Especially if you like French Rococo commodes.}

Monday, April 17, 2006

Back to The Sewer Wars: CSD's Measure B Ruling Press Release .FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 13, 2006
RE: Judge Declares Los Osos Ballot Initiative (Measure B) Invalid –
Public Vote on the New Sewer Project Site Not Required In a long, and as yet unfinished battle over where a treatment plant ought to be located, Measure B was a voter initiative that was simply meant to keep the treatment plant from being located next to the churches, schools and community center in the heart of Los Osos. Now the voter initiative enacting this siting ordinance appears to be dead.In early December, Taxpayers Watch, a group formed and headed by recalled x-directors Stan Gustafson and Gordon Hensley, filed a new legal challenge to Measure B. The new suit was virtually a duplicate of the failed action filed by the old CSD Board in a pre-election challenge. A local ruling on that action that would have kept Measure B off the ballot was summarily overturned by the Court of Appeal last summer. Measure B was placed on the ballot and approved by the electorate on September 27, 2005. On Nov. 28, the old case was dismissed and Measure B remained in effect. On April 13th, SLO Superior Court Judge Tangeman ruled in the new case, that the Measure B initiative was an administrative rather than a legislative action, and that it interferes with essential government functions. Under the law, initiatives proposed by the people must be strictly legislative in nature. That is, they must establish policies and procedures.This ruling does not end the present case, however. A second trial is set for May 30, 2006, to determine whether the plaintiffs in the action were prohibited from bringing the action in the first place. Because the plaintiffs failed to join in the old CSD action that was dismissed, they may be barred from challenging the initiative now.Called the “Poison Pill” by the State Water Resources Control Board, Measure B made it impossible for the Los Osos CSD Board to move forward with the controversial wastewater treatment facility at the Tri-W site. That in turn required moving the controversial plant, with attendant delays in construction. Funding of the low interest state loan was then pulled by the State, based on the districts refusal to violate what was then a valid measure. “It was a violation of the law, the public trust and our oath of office to disregard the voice of the people and the legally enacted ordinance,” said President Lisa Schicker.Key to the ordinance was the public knowing the project price tag. The former project grew from a promise of less than $65 million to nearly $200 million, without the public’s approval.The District can choose to appeal the findings of the lower court, assuming the trial in May upholds the ruling. The District says it is vital in any event to continue its progress in choosing a new wastewater facility and site. “Either way, as I see it, the old site is off the table , ” said Dan Bleskey, Interim General Manager , " It is far too costly to resurrect that project, and far too controversial. " On Thursday, April 20th, at 7pm at South Bay Community Center, the District will hear public comment on the adoption of a wastewater plant siting ordinance. Unlike the public, the District Board can require environmental and economic siting requirements for a wastewater treatment facility and make other determinations, whether they are legislative or administrative in nature. District attorneys are preparing options for consideration by the District Board that will prohibit construction of a facility in close proximity to the library, schools, the community center and public gathering places._______________________________________________________________________
For further information:Julie Biggs LOCSD Legal Counsel 951-788-0100Lisa Schicker, LOCSD President 805-528-3268 cell: 305-9166Dan Bleskey, Interim General Manager, Los Osos Community Services District at or <> 805-528-9370
The following was written by Pete Sarafian and appeared in the SWAP (Small Wilderness Area Preservation) news bulletin. Pete is the Chief Weed Warrior, a group of volunteers who toil in the Elfin Forest in Los Osos, keeping non-native invasives at bay. Now, alas, thanks to lazy, careless people, invasive weeds threatening the unique Elfin preserve are being joined by dog poop. I thought this post would be a break from the Endless Sewer Wars, but, it's not: Poop is poop, canine or human. And un-picked up poop contributes to street run-off into the Bay. Pet Poop

by Pete Sarafian, SWAP Conservation Chair

Sandra Beebe of Morro Bay has worked tirelessly to obtain funds for mutt mitt dispensers and bags. She single-handedly initiated the Small Wilderness Area Preservation (SWAP) program in the Elfin Forest to responsibly dispose of pet poop. There now is a dispenser and garbage bag at every one of the seven street entrances to the Forest. What could be more convenient for pet owners? Unfortunately, not everyone in Los Osos and the surrounding area has responded as a responsible citizen and good pet owner. Lately, it has seemed as though locals have taken increased pride in leaving unsightly, smelly, polluting poop around the Forest. This irresponsible behavior does great harm in polluting Morro Bay with fecal matter and causing high bacteria counts. Pet poop even is implicated in the die-off of sea otters along our coast.

Recently SWAP went out in the Forest on two separate occasions about a month apart and gathered up the disgusting dog doo. Over a one-month period, there was an accumulation of nearly five gallons of canine crap. This disgusting task yielded about 20 pounds of dried bowser b.m. At this rate, about a half-ton of turds are deposited in the Elfin Forest each year. That’s 1,000 pounds, folks. The community cannot sustain this kind of pollution without serious environmental consequences. Please remind your dog-owning neighbors to pick up their fido fecals.
Correction! Correction! Correction! The judge ruling in the Measure B (sewer initiative, mentioned below) was Judge Martin J. Tangeman, NOT Judge Piquet. Smacks all 'round with a wet noodle and into the corner with me.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Measure B Bites Dust? Perils of Overreach? Does it Matter? Questions Remain!

Judge Piquet [correction! correction! It was Judge Martin Tangeman's case. Here in Sewerville, you need a program to keep all the lawsuits straight. My apologies.] handed down his ruling as to the validity of the Measure B initiative, an initiative that would have allowed the citizens to vote on selecting a sewer system they want to "buy," including the option of "none of the above." If I read his ruling right, it appears that the initiative failed because the initiative “over reached,” that is, it had a clause in it that allowed the voter to vote for NO PROJECT, an option that overstepped its bounds and slipped it into the realm of being an “administrative” decision, not strictly a” legislative” one.

What’s unclear to me is how the legal mandate (and limitations) of the Regional Water Quality Control Board fit within this ruling. The Board cannot dictate what kind of system is to be built. They can only set discharge standards, for example, and then approve or disapprove of whatever system is brought before them for a discharge permit.

So if voters elected a Board and the Board wanted to select one sort of system or another, the RWQCB would have no “administrative” say in the matter, only the right to approve or disapprove of whatever was decided. And if the voters elected a Board that decided they didn’t want to build ANY system and instead wanted to have the town’s tanks pumped every day and truck the wastewater to Oregon, the RWQCB would also have no say in using that method either, so long as the discharge requirements under Resolution 83-12 & 13 were met.

So, there’s my puzzle with this ruling. Tangeman ruled the measure invalid because, if I understand correctly, the initiative gave the voter power to directly vote for . . . something . . . as opposed to voting for elected officials who would then vote for . . . something. Apparently the former is “legislative” and is considered a no-no, while the latter is “administrative” and is o.k.

What I couldn’t find in the ruling is the judge’s discussion of a phrase that was in the Initiative that stated that if any section of the initiative was found to be illegal, it could be “severed” and the rest would remain. So, I have no idea what happened to that.

Also, it’s still a puzzle to me why the Judge had a problem with the clause in the initiative that allowed the voters to vote for NO PROJECT. He notes: “An initiative is not legally permitted to take over that administrative function by placing the issue of whether the District will comply with the state mandate in the hands of the electorate. Measure B unlawfully does so, by allowing the electorate to choose not only where such a facility shall be built, but whether such a facility will be built at all. In other words, the electorate is allowed to choose whether they prefer the “no project’ alternative, which means non-compliance with an existing state-imposed mandate.”

Uh, please correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t Resolution 83-12 & 13 set discharge levels, with an ultimate result in NO DISCHARGE by such and such time? And since the RWQCB can’t dictate WHAT system (if any) is to be built, (or where, if anywhere) I’m still puzzled as to why a NO PROJECT vote would violate anything, since the "state imposed mandate" is about discharge levels. Once again, if voters wanted to truck their waste daily to Oregon for disposal, they would be meeting the RWQCB’s discharge requirements (hence meeting the “state-imposed mandate”) but they’d be doing it without a “project.” So, I have to wonder if Judge Piquet thinks that the state and the Regional Board legally has an “administrative” say in building some particular project? So far as I know, they don’t. Not legally, at least. (Judge Tangeman) does note, “Although Resolution 83-13 did not specify how the discharge of sewage should be handled, it evidently contemplated the construction of some sort of facility because it established a timetable for the District to “Begin Design, Complete Design, obtain Construction Funding, Begin construction, Complete Construction.” What I’d be curious to know is whether that “evident” contemplation was mere assumption or had some legal basis.)

And, finally, does any of this matter any more? Seriously. For most folks, Measure B was a whisker-thin “win,” that, in may ways, simply represented a desperate measure on the part of people who wanted a say in where their sewer plant was going to be built since the recalled board refused to hold a Prop 218-type vote. (A matter that’s still unresolved.) So, now it’s kaput, does it matter?

As with all things Sewer, stay tuned.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Ron Crawford over at is asking another one of his annoying Koan-like questions as to just what the Regional Water Quality Control Board wad doing for two years while the first CSD futzed around on a “solution” that they had already ruled – prior to the CSD election – they wouldn’t support. Considering the RWQCB has access to a time machine – they’ve sent out official rulings of the CDO hearings BEFORE it’s even taken place – how cool is that? – so it seems to me they could hop into their Way Back Time Machine and set things right. Meanwhile, I was away for a few days during which time CSD President Lisa Schicker wrote a “Viewpoint” for the Tribune. In case anybody missed it, here it is. I find it particularly interesting that a local Superior Court judge, hearing I believe the measure B case (?? there are so many miscellaneous lawsuits, it’s hard to keep track of them all) stated in the courtroom “that the LOCSD board was ‘anti-sewer.’” Now, first of all, that’s an extraordinary statement of . . . bias? . . . to raise at the start of a hearing. But it’s also indicative of so much of the misinformation that’s out there in the community. And the unwillingness of even Superior Court judges to dig a little deeper than phony sound bites or misleading headlines. That this sort of misapprehension would appear from the bench should concern everyone in Los Osos. At any rate, here’s the “Viewpoint” piece.

Los Osos Board is NOT “Anti - Wastewater Project”
Viewpoint submitted to TT April 6, 2006 by Lisa Schicker, LOCSD President
Misconceptions about the Los Osos Board and their activities are rampant in SLO County and some clarifications are in order.
Last week, a SLO Superior Court Judge told his courtroom that the current LOCSD Board was "anti-sewer"; this was quite surprising. Contrary to this notion, our Board is actively working on a revised wastewater project, an environmentally preferred project that addresses affordability, sustainability and our groundwater recharge and saltwater intrusion problems.
We have NEVER been “anti”-clean water or “anti-wastewater project”, as many, including our esteemed judge, have been led to believe.
For health, safety, environmental and economical reasons, we stated repeatedly that any community treatment facility must be located away from the town-center, away from the library, church, schools, and National Estuary. We don’t believe it was sustainable or economical to truck sludge to Santa Barbara County at 80% water content; part of the old plan. The $50,000+ pricetag per household (or $205/month) wasn’t acceptable either, more expensive than anywhere in America.
The recall election seated three new “Move-the-Sewer” Directors in October– joining two already-seated “Move-the-Sewer” Directors. Many don’t know that the old board and manager ignored public pleas and drained the wastewater fund just before the election. This drawdown left the new board less than $100k to work with, not including unsold bonds or state revolving fund loan monies. The old board started construction less than 20 days before the election, putting their community at great financial risk.
Despite obvious legal and financial pressures, our Board is making progress on five promises: 1) increase public participation, 2) implement water conservation measures, 3) start a septic tank management program, 4) conduct affordability study and 5) deliver a holistic wastewater project to Los Osos ASAP.
Two different engineering companies were chosen for three of these tasks: a septic tank management plan and updated wastewater project report will be ready by summer’s end, both incorporate water conservation.
LOCSD Board passed Resolutions requesting assistance from Assemblyman Blakeslee and SLO County – asking them to encourage the water board to stop enforcement and work together instead on acceptable community solutions.
A LOCSD negotiating team meets regularly with Water Board staff, to establish dialogue, resolve issues and provide project updates.
Over thirty-five public meetings (taped and televised) were held since October 1. In addition to wastewater, LOCSD manages water, drainage, solid waste, lighting and emergency services - all on a shoestring annual budget of less than $3 million. Like all CSD’s, SLO County retains most of Los Osos’ property taxes.
Three monthly business meetings are held and 10 advisory/adhoc committees meet, increasing public participation.
On numerous occasions in 2003-2005, before and after we were elected, after writing and speaking against the flawed project at public meetings, various officials replied:
“If you don’t like the downtown project, then just change your Board”.

These words were spoken by several Regional and State Water Board members, County Supervisors and Coastal Commissioners.

That is what we did – we got elected and changed our Board. The question remains - will these same government agencies that encouraged us to “change our Board” recognize our commitment and work with us to change the project, as they promised?
Our Board is willing, able and determined to solve Los Osos problems – we request cooperation from other agencies to get the job done and we don’t want to spend any more of the people’s precious resources on defending against enforcement – this waste only takes us further from our common goals. We publicly invite SLO County, the Water Boards and our Assemblyman to join with us for all of Los Osos.

Lisa Schicker, President, LOCSD Board
Los Osos …………………………………………………………………………………….

Friday, April 14, 2006

Time Travel Hits Sewerville, Again.

First we had former General Manager Bruce Buel getting into his Waaaay Back Time Machine and zipping back to a nice day on the First of November a few years ago to sign a contract with Montgomery Watson Harza for millions of dollars worh of services even though he wouldn’t be hired by the CSD and legally authorized to sign those contract until November 14th.

For time travel fans, it was an exciting breakthrough. And now, it’s happened again. The Los Osos Forty-Five have received letters from Regional Water Quality Control Board CEO, Roger Briggs, dated April 28th describing the April 28th CDO Hearing and outlining the findings of the Board. Considering that the Los Osos 45 got these letters in the mail on April 11th – 13th, indicates that once again we've achieved . . . . TIME TRAVEL.

Miracles never cease here in Sewerville. Previous official letters from the RWQCB have stated that at the upcoming hearing on April 28, the Los Osos 45 will have a RIGHT to testify, call witnesses, present evidence, etc., so many of the 45 had been preparing their case, and were ready to do exactly that come April 28th. Now, they don’t need to. With the arrival of the official letter, they now know that, unbeknownst to them, they already had their “day in court.” Of course, it was a court that insists upon a Verdict First, with Evidence irrelevant, which, you must admit, saves so much more time than the other way around.

Of course, doing things this way opens one up to charges of being a Kangaroo Court, with cries of Sham! Sham! ringing thorough the air. Phooey. It’s not sham, it’s TIME TRAVEL . . . again!

On a happier note, for the first time in 30 years, remediation via a "pilot" onsite enhanced septic system in the form of the Piranha system was installed at the CSD’s fire house. (Another bype of onsite technology is being proposed for use at the LOCSD Water Yard) Lysimeters were installed under the firehouse leach field and testing can commence. Even the RWQCB, which has disallowed any onsite systems within the prohibition zone, some time ago gave permission to the “old CSD Board” if they wanted to install a “test” unit outside the Prohibition Zone (apparently the letter wasn’t made public until recently “discovered” by the new staff and board.) Why that becomes interesting is because it’s clear that should they have wished to do so, the county, the original CSD Board and the Regional Water Quality Control Board (which in resolution 83-12, gave the authority to both the county and CSD) could have been doing a variety of enhanced onsite remediations with their septic systems all the years and years that the various sewer projects were being considered and rejected and the Sewer Wars raged on. Indeed, various factions within the community have begged for years for the creation of a Septic Maintenance District that would have allowed for such improvements to the groundwater. Everyone, including the Regional Water Quality Control Board, refused to do zip, which makes their present hang-wringing declaration that Los Osos is in some sort of septic crisis requiring this mad CDO pumping scheme even more hypocritical than usual.

Now, with the installation of the Piranha system, even the RWQCB is expressing an interest in the test data that will be forthcoming. (I know, why don’t they just get in their time machine and zip forwards a few months for a look-see?)

Dr. Daniel Wickham, developer of the Pirana system, owner of “SludgeHammer” systems, spoke at the CSD April 13th meeting and noted a curious fact: Every single industry has developed and uses bio-remediation in controlling and dealing with its various “wastes,” except sanitation entities. A county’s multi-gazillion dollar a year wine industry, for example, will be a leader in developing and using onsite bio-remediation for its waste, while the same county’s sanitation district will still be limping along with old systems, with no attempt to deliberately control and manipulate the “product” using 21st century technologies. This results in out-dated sewage systems that are breaking and leaking and polluting and sludge-generating and costing taxpayers a bundle, aided and abetted and made worse by a lazy regulatory mind-set that’s still willfully stuck in the 19th century.

More Sewerville Notes: It was noted in last night’s CSD meeting that thanks to the disclosure laws on campaign donations, it’s now known that during the recall campaign, Montgomery Watson Harza and Barnard Construction donated $10,000 each to the “Save the Dream Coalition” to oppose the recall. Those were folks who designed and were starting to build the Tri-W sewer plant, which plans were directly threatened by the recall.

Twenty-thousand smackaroonies to be repaid from the citizens’ sewer rates, all just a part of doing business in Sewerville. God bless the child... . .

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Calhoun’s Can(n)ons The Bay New, Morro Bay, CA for April 12, 06 (25)

Tribune Out-Onions The Onion!

Oh, God Love em! The Tribune has finally and spectacularly out-Onioned The Onion (, that deviously delicious satirical “newspaper” that regularly makes up hilarious headlines and phony news stories.

Most folks learned years ago to read the Tribune’s Los Osos stories with a cup of coffee in one hand and a pound of salt in the other. In their defense, all newspapers have a tough time reporting on wars. The chaos of battle, the fog of conflict, the fast changing skirmishes over disputed ground, the rotation of reporters so that institutional memory gets lost and whoever gets tossed into the Los Osos Sewer Wars’ free-fire zone ends up with one overriding wish: Scribble something, anything, then get the hell out of the place alive.

The result is that the reader can end up with that amazing Onionish March 28th headline: “Plan calls for new tanks in Los Osos; An engineering firm says bout 5,000 septic tanks labeled as faulty need to be replaced – at their owners’ expense – with pressurized models.”

The lead paragraph continued, “About 5,000 Los Osos homes and business may have to buy new septic tanks under a plan advanced by a small engineering firm the services district will hire next week.” Puzzlement surely would have turned to consternation or anger: “A plan has been picked and is being advanced? Hey, I thought the voters were supposed to select the wastewater plan!”

Well, not to worry, there was indeed a problem with the story.

The CSD had voted to enter negotiations with Ripley Pacific Co. to determine the scope of work to be done in order to update the wastewater project report – the “scope of work” being a “compare, contrast and price out” various alternative systems which can then be presented to the Board and then the voters. In short, when the story ran, the negotiations to determine the scope of work hadn’t even been finished.

But there it was, the gape-mouth question: Plan? What plan? Was the Tribune calling the race even before the horse could get out of the stall? Not quite. Turns out the “Plan” presented on the front pages as news, was a three-year-old Ripley Pacific alternative step/steg proposal for Los Osos, a plan similar to what Ripley Pacific is now building in the northern California city of Stevinson. But the Tribune failed to identify it as such, even in their buried-on-B-2 “Corrections” section.

In addition to specious headlines, a more serious problem appeared in the text that repeatedly appears in so many stories about the Sewer Wars: “He said - She said” claims that are printed without making even the slightest effort to determine whether the claims are true or arrant nonsense.

For example, the March 28th story reports that “. . . 5,000 septic tanks labeled as faulty by [Regional Water Quality Control Board] regulators . . .” Five thousand “faulty” tanks? Really? There are about 5,000 homes in the prohibition zone. As anyone with a septic tank can tell you, if you have a “faulty” septic tank, you call a septic pumping company really, really quick.

Since the Tribune printed that claim without attempting to verify its truthfulness, I asked CSD Board Member, Julie Tacker: Has a septic tank inspection of the prohibition zone ever been done to determine how many tanks are “faulty”? No, Never. I called Al’s Septics: Have you gotten calls from 5,000 people complaining about “faulty” tanks? Laughter.

Three-year-old “plans,” Five thousand” faulty tanks?” That’s how unchecked, arrant nonsense can turn into “fact,” how perception becomes “reality.” And when the arrant nonsense is coming from a regulatory Regional Board that then uses this false information to damage a whole community, it’s easy to see the role our county’s newspaper of record plays in this game, not as a watchdog or factual corrective, but as a megaphone and nonsense magnifier.

Perception IS reality. The Sewer Wars, like all wars, are no joke and require serious, accurate reporting. When that goes missing, the community is badly served, indeed. And you wonder why the outside world has a totally false picture of Los Osos?

With The Onion, you know in advance it’s a joke. If the Tribune is now trying to out-Onion The Onion, then in addition to Caveat lector, when reading the Tribune Los Ososians need to add two more words: Bwa-hahahah.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Push Pull Polling, Anyone? For a gander at how THAT little game works, trot over to for Ron Crawford's discussion of "surveys," political campaign laws," push-pull polling and the old Bait & Switcharoo as it pertains to the good old question, "Just how DID we end up in this Sewervilel Train Wreck, anyway?" The past is prologue, as they say.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Toot, Toot, Chuga-Chuga. Elvis has left the building.

At the April 6th Los Osos CSD meeting, the Board voted to give a contract to Ripley Pacific Company to prepare the Wastewater Project Update report. The contract amount is a not-to-exceed $513,400 and will take approximately 17 weeks to complete. According to the Agenda, “The fee is allocated by task, which allows the Board to assess the relative cost of key activities and prioritizes funding accordingly. . . . site selection activities will be completed within 5 weeks of the Notice to proceed . . . environmental review [will begin] early in the process. . . . [review of on-site technologies] will be performed by Ensitu Engineering as part of a District-wide Septic System management Program.”

In addition, the report will focus on “an integrated approach to effluent disposal and treatment with the goal of maximizing the sustainability of the community’s water supply. The goal of achieving 100 percent reuse of the effluent will be pursued to the maximum extent practicable and economically feasible." . . .”an analysis and comparison of the configuration, feasibility, and cost of various types, systems and methods of wastewater collection including . . . Gravity collection and pumping . . . utilizing the 100% design drawings and cost estimates prepared by MWH [the Tri W project] . . . Septic Tank Effluent Pump (STEP) and Septic Tank Effluent Gravity (STEG) collections systems . . . “

Further, “The life cycle cost analysis will include capital, operation, maintenance and replacement costs through the life expectancy of the system . . . Project costs shall address items that were previously deferred [in the Tri W plan] including sludge management processes. “

In addition, “The Ripley team will work closely with the district’s claims experts and financial consultants to prepare a comprehensive project cost analysis that includes the budget for the selected project, sunk project costs, budgets for claim resolution, land purchases or sales, and a budget for potential litigation.” And, interestingly, “The cost estimates prepared in Task 9 will be subjected to independent review by a construction firm with the relevant background and experience, under a contract direct with the CSD or alternatively by subcontract to Ripley Pacific.”

And, in Task 11, an interesting addition: the Phased approach, to see if there would be a benefit in constructing any wastewater project in stages, i.e. identifying the most seriously impacted areas and getting them on line first, followed by less critical areas.

Furthermore, there were some Board comments that I found most interesting: If the Tri W project were brought before the State Water Board and the Regional Water Quality control Board today, it wouldn’t meet the new requirements regarding sustainability and water reuse. Irony? Indeed. Since the new rules are now in place, whatever results from the project update and new project will meet those new standards. More irony.

The whole agenda item will hopefully be posted on the CSD’s website so anyone can read it in full. There was discussion about funding, and it sounded like the CSD will be rattling the various CSD’s coin jars (various applicable accounts) to get some from this fund, some from that and look into borrowing the rest, part of which would be put into an escrow account, so should something ”untoward happen,” Ripley Pacific would be paid for work done to that point.

So, there it is. Toot, toot, chugga-chugga, the Project Update train has left the station. What the “boxcars” will look like when it pulls into view again remains to be seen. Glimpses of the shape of things will be presented to the public as the various “tasks” are completed. Whatever is finalized will meet all the new state requirements and standards, including, if a SRF loan is in the mix, the requirement for a Prop 218-type assessment vote. Plus, happily, the project’s price tag won’t play hide-the-salami with “deferred” costs, as the Tri W project did, so the $64,000 Question I’m sure the whole community is just waiting to get a gander at will be the long-term, no-deferred costs, all-inclusive, O,M & R, final, bottom-line, out of pocket price tag.

So, stay tuned.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Quick, Get Me Rewrite!

I don’t know how it’s possible to misquote from a letter, but that’s what happened in the Tribune’s April 4th story headlined, “Sewer costs could shift to county taxpayers.” In that story, it was reported that in a letter to LAFCO from Assistant County Administrator Gail Wilcox, that “Wilcox told [told? or wrote?] the Local Agency Formation Commission that county staff believes the district was adequately serving Los Osos residents and that there would be no advantage to the county taking over its responsibilities.”

In a “Correction” the next day it stated that the “letter to the Local Agency Formation Commission . . . did not say that the county staff believes the district is adequately serving Los Osos residents. Instead, she more narrowly addressed the question of whether ‘there is something about the structure or legal authority of the CSD that is inadequate to address the needs of the residents.’ She concluded that, in the opinion of county staff, there is not a structural or legal inadequacy.”

Ah, and there it was, the most interesting question that LAFCO and the community have to answer: Is the Dissolution Group claiming that the structure and legal authority of the CSD is so flawed that it must be dissolved? Or, is the structure and legal authority functioning just fine, but it’s the POLITCAL results that the Dissolution Group doesn’t like. If that’s the case, does LAFCO have the legal power to dissolve a properly functioning structure just because certain folks don’t like the POLITICAL results?

And that’s what’s been so weird about the Dissolution Group from day one – Instead of using the structure to change the political results – public comment and input, serving on advisory committees to effect change, starting a new recall petition, or starting some initiatives, or even fielding candidates for November’s board election -- the Dissoution Group moved immediately after the recall votes were certified to remove the entire structure altogether.

Which is sort of like people saying after the re-election of President Bush, “George is a really, really bad political result, so let’s dissolve the U.S. Government and petition Queen Elizabeth to take us back into the Commonwealth.”

In effect, that’s what LAFCO must decide: If the structure is fine, will LAFCO declare that The People must have to work within that structure FIRST to effect the POLITICAL changes they want to see? Or, can LAFCO step in and remove a perfectly good working structure in order to effect a POLITICAL change, even though the various mechanisms for political change were never even tried in the first place?

We may have an answer in June. Stay Tuned.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

More Q's but few A's over at Ron Crawford's site, as Ron asks more snarky questions, this time about the Los Osos wastewater project update's team of experts. (while reading the link, please keep in mind that in their March 28th huge-headlined story, the Tribune apparently mistook the attached "plan" for an actual "plan" and forgot to note the date on the "plan," which was 2003. Hence the misleading headlines that surely sent everyone in Los Osos into a tizzy -- Plan? WHAT PLAN? WHAAAAA? What the Tribune burbled on about was a 2003 step/steg proposal, included in the RFP response because it's similar to the a step/steg system Ripley Pacific Co. is now working on for a similar-sized city in No. CA.