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Friday, June 02, 2006

Fun With Numbers

At the June 7 LOCSD meeting, Dr. Wickham, CEO of ABG Wastewater Solutions, gave an update on the field tests taken from the Pirana “Sludgehammer” system that was installed in the firehouse’s septic system.

While the tests were only field tests (a larger volume of water will be taken later and trotted to the labs for official testing), Dr. Wickham noted that because the RWQCB was reluctant to accept the possibility that denitrification takes place in the soil (despite studies to that effect done by the county years ago, which they dismiss, with no data to back up their dismissal) , he modified the system to see what kind of reductions he could get in the tank. In the field test the nitrogen content started at about 80-90 and is now about 20, in the tank. In the soil, twelve inches below the tank’s discharge pipe, the field sample is showing 3 mgl nitrates.

Why is that interesting? Because the RWQCB has issued a discharge permit for the old Tri W project that allowed for 7 mgl of nitrates in treated wastewater to be discharged to the soil Seven or three? Which is better? If you said, “Why, three is better,” you’d be wrong. The RWQCB, the board that has the word “Water Quality” in its name, won’t allow an inexpensive onsite system that delivers 3 mgls of nitrates. It is going to force you to buy and build a gazillion dollar gravity-fed behemoth sewer plant that finally delivers treated wastewater that contains 7 mgls of nitrates. You see?

Also, when the RWQCB rushed ahead with the ill-considered CDOs and proposed their mad pumping scheme, they were aiming to reduce gross, overall discharges by some 20% by removing the wastewater, in order to attempt to reduce the overall nitrate load. They had never bothered to check with Dr. Wickham to see if his system would deliver in-tank nitrate reductions far lower (and cheaper) without removing gazillions of gallons of water out of our overdrafted basin. Hadn’t bothered to check. Which illustrates once again that the Board’s science is simply shoddy and their research nonexistent.

Dr. Wickham further reported that he’ll be applying to the county for building permits for the firehouse and one other site for the Pirana system. Dr. Wickham observed that the RWQCB was trying to exert pressure on the county to stop this system from being given a permit. They claim it’s a wastewater alternative and so they won’t allow it, but in reality, your septic tank has already received a permit from the county, and installing a Pirana is no different than installing a new bathtub or updating your plumbing fixtures by putting in a low-flow toilet and etc, items for which you’ve already gotten your county building permit, so you don’t’ need a new one.

And science marches on. Too bad the RWQCB won’t join the march.

LAFCO’s dissolution hearing date changed.

Due to a public notification goof-up, the LAFCO dissolution hearing has been changed from June 15th to July 6th, in the BoS new meeting room, starting at 9 .a.m. The extra three weeks will also give the staff time to get the latest information on budgets and other items. It should be an interesting meeting, since it may be difficult to keep the Commissioners on track since various “trial balloons” regarding the sewer issue seem to be clouding the issue.

In her May 25 letter to Paul Hood regarding the “sewer options” he had floated previously, Gail Wilcox, Deputy County Administrative Officer, had to note that she was “unclear about your intent in terms of the two scenarios presented in your letter. Our understanding is that the actions of LAFCO can consider at the June 15 [sic] hearing on the petition to dissolve are:

1) Approve the petition to dissolve the LOCSD (subject to confirmation of the voters if a petition signed by 25-50% of voters is submitted); or
2) Deny the petition to dissolve the LOCSD; or
3) Continue the hearing on this matter for up to 70 days. “

In short, instead of trial balloons or getting derailed by sewer projects, LAFCO is supposed to be deciding whether the CSD is a functioning entity or not. If it is, they need to deny the petition. If it isn’t, then they’ll have to vote to dissolve it. And if they don’t yet have enough legal or financial info, then they should postpone the decision until hey have enough information to make a considered decision.

You’d think, but this is SLO county, where weirdness is king.



And, finally, it’s the Why we’re SHOCKED! SHOCKED! Department.

In a May 31st Bay News story on the LAFCO hearing, it notes, “Joyce Albright of Taxpayers Watch, the group seeking to dissolve the CSD, said they oppose having the CSD continue to have any power whatsoever to direct the construction of the sewer project. Their goal is to have the abandoned [Tri W] project built.”

What??? Awww, and here I recall Taxpayer’s Watch got their dissolution petitions going immediately after the recall election by telling us they were all concerned about the district not functioning, about the district wasting so much money, wringing their hands over the district spending taxpayer’s money on legal fees by suing the district themselves, thereby causing the district to waste even more taxpayer money on legal fees, on falsely implying that dissolving the CSD would protect the citizens from the CDOs, all that wrinkle browed deep and abiding concern about good government and now . . . NOW? . . . we find out that what it was REALLY all about was using LAFCO's dissolution power to set aside the recall and Measure B vote so they could get their rejected sewer plant put back in the middle of town?

Gosh, I’m surprised by such a cynical ploy. Aren’t you?

36 comments:

Anonymous said...

Where is Ripley in all of this? He has $500,000 of our money. Is he going to work for the piranha saleman? Do the tax payers get a refund now?

*PG-13 said...

Please forgive this slightly off-topic note. This refers to a previous thread (Friday, May 26) regarding the domain names: TaxpayersWatch.com and TaxpayersWatch.org: These URL's no longer mirror or redirect to the Los Osos CSD website. A more complete analysis is in a post added to that blog thread (Are Those Domain Names In Your Pocket, Or Are You Just Glad To See Me?)

Now back to your original programming.

Ron said...

"Gosh, I’m surprised by such a cynical ploy. Aren’t you?"

Surprised? Why, I'm shocked. And this entire time, I thought they were dragging Los Osos through all of this because they were so concerned for the well being of the town's residents. You know... "strongly held community values" and all.

Nothing bugs a sports fan, like me, more than when a losing team just can't accept the fact that they lost. They whine about the officiating, they whine about the playing conditions, they whine about the rules, they file official protests, anything... but analyze their performance on the playing field.

Unsavory, yes?

I don't live in Los Osos, so I don't really have my finger on the pulse of your beautiful community, but does that group get any respect out there? If so, why? They demand fines on their own community, they try to circumvent democracy, and they are worst losers I've ever seen.

That's an ugly, ugly combination.

Sewertoons said...

Can anyone on here point to some Los Osian history where delaying a WWTF - any of those proposed over the years will do - where it was cheaper to wait for the next "better" one? When you can, then what you say about TW will be valid. Otherwise you are ascribing to them motives to suit your own spin.

Anonymous said...

Hey pg-13 - thanx for the domain name change info. At last McClendon's little ha-ha joke on TW is over.

However in looking at the Carney & Delaney, LLP site, we should tell the CSD to dump their pack of incompetant lawyers and hire these guys. Except maybe the Riverside connection wouldn't go over too well with certain favorite board advisors....

Sewertoons said...

Ann, I think it is a little soon to be sure of what the Pirana and the new "Nitrohammer" modification can do. Wyckham said his numbers were different every time he tested it.

Also, just because the statistically thin sampling of numbers beneath the firehouse discharge look good right now, we have no idea who is doing what in the building above.

Also, every house that discharges will not have the identical soil composition as is found beneath the fire station.

So, too soon to say much of anything about numbers, fun or otherwise. Science must weigh in first.

Anonymous said...

...a losing team just can't accept the fact that they lost. They whine about...

I think the town of Los Osos is finally coming to terms with the fact that they made a HUGE mistake. I mean come on, the recall election was really only won by what 20 votes or something? What do we have to show for it. A huge hole in the middle of town. The current CSD is NOT making any forward progress in building a new sewer or fixing the eyesore in the middle of town. Does anyone else besides me think that it is insane to think that we can build a cheaper sewer? It was expensive 20 years ago and gee with inflation, etc... it's expensive now. Go figure. It's only going to be more expensive in the future. Get over it. Finish the current project and let the town move forward.

-fiveo

Mike Green said...

Sewertoon offered:
"Can anyone on here point to some Los Osian history where delaying a WWTF - any of those proposed over the years will do - where it was cheaper to wait for the next "better" one? When you can, then what you say about TW will be valid."

Cheaper, Better, Faster
The A number one biggest lie ever sold to the public of LO
I would invite you to read all the archives of Ron's great blog over at sewerwatch.
The real answer to your question of course is "NO"
There has never been a sewer built, so we have never paid for one (yet) so to say one was cheaper than another is speculative at this point.

I will say this, that its not spin to be amazed at the TW people.

Churadogs said...

Sewertoons sez:"Ann, I think it is a little soon to be sure of what the Pirana and the new "Nitrohammer" modification can do. Wyckham said his numbers were different every time he tested it.

Also, just because the statistically thin sampling of numbers beneath the firehouse discharge look good right now, we have no idea who is doing what in the building above.

Also, every house that discharges will not have the identical soil composition as is found beneath the fire station.

So, too soon to say much of anything about numbers, fun or otherwise. Science must weigh in first."

Indeed, science will weigh in with the official sampling. And you're right, every house is different (which makes the CDO's legally questionalbe since the RWQCB is hanging sheep AND goats), but wht's of concern in Porter Cologne is that the (usable/drinkable) waters of California be protected and in a sheep&goat-hanging BASIN plan, it's the overall nitrate load to the upper aquifers that's of concern and needs to be addressed. The RWQCB's 83-13 calling for all discharges to cease by such and such a date is an attempt to reduce the nitrate load to the BASIN. At the same time, a sewer plant will be allowed to discharge treated wasetwater with 7mgl of nitrates back into the BASIN. (Clearly, that's not zero discharge.) So, the question, if you're attempting to reduce nitrates in the upper aquifer by reducing nitrates discharged to onsite systems, and your target acceptable discharge number is 7mgl, what number would you arrive at, collectively, if the whole town had Pirana's installed, their average discharge was X, Y% of the homes were high enough to ground water that their discharges didn't get anywhere near the waters of California, z% were near enough to groundwater but the Pirana system discharged such a low amount that soil denitrification finished the job so they weren't polluting the waters of the state of California, so that left M% who were discharging . . . X% and when all those numbers were added together for an aggregate BASIN wide nitrate load, you came up with ---- less than 7mgl overall.

Why would you need a ginormous traditional sewer when you'd end up exactly in the same place,BASIN-wide/nitrate load-wise?

Also, consider a RWQCB that never bothered to check into Wickham's "sludgehammer" (even though they had given him the go-ahead to use his sytem in a pilot program well over a year ago, so they knew him and knew his system), as a possible far cheaper, far less environmentally damaging mitigation tool in place of their mad pumping scheme? Matter of fact, they could have saved themselves a lot of work if they had told the CSD and the town, community members can install the following "approved" intank systems as voluntary mitigation methods, submit proof of installation (with a monitoring contract) and those folks who didn't do that, will receive CDOs.

Any bets as to how many people would have installed the systems, thereby becoming "reluctant dischargers nonetheless mitigating immediately"? Which would leave how many people left as "recalcitrant, deliberate dischargers refusing to mitigate," who could then be served with CDOs.

Any guess as to how few CDOs would be necessary, versus the 5,000 that the RWQCB wants to slap on the town? How much easier it would be to prosecute a waaaayyy smaller number of "recalcitrants?"
How considering a system that's waaaayyy better for the enviroment would indicate a RWQCB that at least had done their homework. How a RWQCB could tell the difference in mitigation between a gross 20% overall wasteWATER reduction versus -- let's just say Wickham's average nitrate reduction wasn't 80-90%, let's say it was 50%. Wouldn't that give you waaaaaayyyyyy more nitrate reduction for waaaaayyyy less money?

The fact that the RWQCB didn't do that makes me question their science and their judgement. Which makes me question their basin plan's science and rational. And once you start down that road, I'm afraid you end up asking questions that nobody wants to answer.

You said "science must weigh in."
I've been waiting 24 years for it to do that. I'm still waiting.

Anonymous said...

So now the water gods will trust that all installed piranhas are actually functioning (that is that power is still turned on, current crop of micros have been inserted by Wyckham,etc.) and we pay Wyckham year in and year out at whatever rate he decides?

No thanks, I think I'll take my changes with the water gods, at least there is a long history of established procedures available to the individual property owner.

To save (5 cents a month, according to Wyckham) of electricity, how many midnight disconnects by budget conscious property owners would occur?

What this piranha system invites is an administrative nightmare. How is this to be monitored, and who pays?

Light bulb just went on in my head, that is the idea! We can easily sabotoge the system and go back to the history of the last year thirty years.

Churagdog this is brilliant! Churadog for queen of Los Osos!

PublicWorks said...

Once again, Ann is also mixing apples and oranges.

The 7mg/l she referes to is effluent, without soil effects. So whether it's a Piranna or a sewer, soil effects and further de-nitrification as discharges move through soil is a valid scientific question for both types of systems, but a moot point for regulation.

Ann, how does every house being different make CDOs legally questionable? - jeez, where do you make up some of this stuff.

The real interesting question is, did the current board have wisdom in selecting Ripley over Wickham and the others??

Every house discharging less than 7mg/l (if all other requirements are equal - not a simple assumption) would be the same as a treatment plant.

Steve Paige said...

Right on Ann,

LAFCO should not be floating any "Plans" at all. It is not their role by point of law. The County should be the Agency to approach the CSD about a Joint Powers Agreement. The petitioner's have drawn a line in the sand which LAFCO must either step over or ignore the petition's merit. It is after the "dissolution" is approved by the LAFCO board that you can petition for a vote on the matter and represent the opposing case. There is a problem. The petition was put before the voters on false premices. It is also in essence a 'blanket petition'.

Premise A......

"The Los Osos Community Service District Board of Directors made a serise of desisions incurring significant fisical liability for our community without identifying how the district will pay for it."

THE BASIC PREMISE IS A FALSE STATEMENT:

The CSD acted within the SRF contract agreement perview for plan changes and delays. At no time did they vote by resolution to cancel the contract based on it's original form and it cannot be proven that they did. The State canceled the SRF loan not the CSD because The State approved the loan without a description of the revenue stream. Appendix "G" of the State contract. The State financial office demanded a Prop. 218 re-vote 'after the fact' to approve increasing the cost of the sewer plant from it's original 47 Million to 160 Million dollars without voting as required by law in Article 13 D of the State Constitution. THE STATE demanded that as a condition for loan continuation it would require that it be allowed to AMMEND ITS OWN LEGAL ERROR. So in fact the CSD prevented the legally unsupportable cost increase of installing a sewer by agreeing to a proposition 218 vote in its negoations with the State thereby potentially preventing an illegtimate added expense of 120 million dollars to the community.

QUIETING LEGAL CLAIMS by setteling them reduced further the financial liabiliy of the CSD contradicts PREMISE A.

"SERISE OF DESISIONS" is LEGALLY too vague a claim to dissolve the LOCSD on.

No specific desision was claimed in the petition. That is what the signatories agreed to support and that only. Can an agency be dissolved on 'vague claims' and 'unspecified reasons'? The public was in essence signing a 'blanket claim' that could be later filled in by the petitioners. Agency dissolution law cannot be consistant with the petitioner's action because the public has not agreed to specific claims after the fact. Re-petition for dissolution would be required for any specifically defined claim about a now unspecified 'decision'. Therefore the petitioners cannot make any further clarity of claim without it being disregarded by point of law.

Premise A Leads to premise B......

"These decisions were made without a detailed plan for building a sewer facility anywhere at anytime in the future".

AN UNSPECIFIED 'SERISE OF DESISIONS' ARE THEN USED TO MAKE A PRESENT AND FUTURE CLAIM ABOUT PROJECT PLANNING. Planning details are in process and funding has been approiated for a study of them.

And premise C......

"The decisions were made without disclosing to the public an overall strategy for dealing with water quality and threatened water supplies while protecting the community from substantial fines and escalating costs."

ALL PREVIOUS WATER QUALITY STUDIES ADOPTED BY THE CSD FROM IT'S INCEPTION AND ONGOING STUDIES WERE NOT DISMISSED BY THE CSD BY RESOLUTION BUT CARRIED ON WITH THE NEW BOARD. The new board did not vote to suspend them. The "overall strategy" therefore remained unchanged AND IS NOW BEING IMPROVED UPON BY FURTHER STUDIES.

redhead step daughter said...

For Anon-who worries about the little pirana whirring away in thier septic tank having a disconnect. Easily reconnected no fuss no harm.But how about a huge 'state of the art' dinosaur sludge factory with all the techno you can possibly stuff into it built right above a estuary now there's a disaster waiting to happen... In August 2005 10,000
GALLONS OS SEWAGE streamed to Avila Beach due to a COMPUTER GLITCH at the Los Osos Valley Road plant closing the beach for two days and not to mention the damage to thej environment and the cost.

Ron said...

I said:
"They whine about the officiating, they whine about the playing conditions, they whine about the rules..."

And an Anon said:
"I mean come on, the recall election was really only won by what 20 votes or something?"

I think I speak for all sports fans everywhere when I say, "uggghhh."

That same Anon said:
"The current CSD is NOT making any forward progress in building a new sewer..."

Other than hiring a reputable wastewater engineering firm to design "a new sewer."

That same Anon said:
"...or fixing the eyesore in the middle of town.

Here's my suggestion for that. Remember those silly gold shovels they used for the "ground breaking ceremony." Yea, those. Hand those shovels to Bruce, Stan, Gordon, Pandora, Gary, Richard, Bob and Frank, and point to the "eyesore in the middle of town," and say, "Get busy!"

PublicWorks said...

" And an Anon said:
"I mean come on, the recall election was really only won by what 20 votes or something?"

I think I speak for all sports fans everywhere when I say, "uggghhh "

Vegas bookies had the point spread at 13 votes, hence the agony.



A poster states: "The CSD acted within the SRF contract agreement perview for plan changes and delays."

Does this author understand contract law? To say the SRF contract allowed for a total re-siting of a treatment plan is hillarious. No judge is going to consider a total re-siting & re-design of a treatment facility part of a contract. I have never heard such nonsense.

Poster states:

"The State financial office demanded a Prop. 218 re-vote 'after the fact' to approve increasing the cost of the sewer plant from it's original 47 Million to 160 Million dollars without voting as required by law in Article 13 D of the State Constitution."

What is this person smoking? The state didn't demand anything. The state put a condition on a proposal that required a 218 vote as part of that proposal. The reason is simple. Why would the state front the money for pipes and not be able to collect indefinitely, when they are exposed to design and construction delays for re-siting a plant? It has to do with securing an loan, nothing more.

The quoted increase from 47 mil to 160 mil is hillarious. Talk about phoney phacts. The cost, in 2001, was estimated at about $85 million. The state based the loan in 2005 on $139 mil max, with a revenue plan for FEEs to pay for the loan, FEEs not to be paid until construction was COMPLETE. 218 doesn't mean you get to vote on any/every assesment, especially for water/wastewater. There could be a valid case for 218, but it is dependant on a lot more than what the poster provides.

The poster states:

""These decisions were made without a detailed plan for building a sewer facility anywhere at anytime in the future".

and then the poster doesn't even refute the statement.

There was no detailed plan. If so, please post it for everyone to see. Just saying you have a 'plan' is not a 'plan', especially not a detailed one.

If planning details and processes are starting now, that means, in fact, that they were not in place before the project was suspended. It boils down to this, where was the 'plan' when the board voted to stop work and never resumed work on the project (the contracted project). It doesn't exist, or if it did, it sure wasn't publicized. A jumble of thoughts does not constitute a 'plan'.

Anonymous said...

Publicworks,
Great post with straight forward and very understandable explanations, Thank you!

A question for the Redhead step daughter:

What procedure is going to insure that 5.000 pirhanas are continuously in operation?

Oh, the great piranha man himself during his initial sales pitch, that his device is only an interim solution until a full functional waster water treatment plant is operating. This means that in his professional opinion, a WWTP is still needed!

Sewertoons said...

Mike Green said:

"The real answer to your question of course is 'NO'
There has never been a sewer built, so we have never paid for one (yet) so to say one was cheaper than another is speculative at this point."

It comes to mind that there will hopefully BE only ONE plant built, so we will never have anything else built to compare that to.

All we have to compare then, IS speculation. Do I choose the plant that is $135 million or the plant that is $200 million?

PublicWorks said...

"What procedure is going to insure that 5.000 pirhanas are continuously in operation? "

It's called remote monitoring, we are in the 21st century.

Anonymous said...

I believe that remote monitoring was never presented as an element of the piranha system.

Remote monitoring was maybe mentioned in full onsite treatment systems but was never included in information regarding piranha. If memory serves, the piranha system was something like 4-5k up front for set up and install, and an annual fee to Wyckham for maintenance.

As Public works mentioned remote monioring is very technologically do able, but at what cost?

There would be a retrofit needed to design and install sensor(s) in the piranha gismo, 5000 individual set up/verifications/radio tunings/ etc.,a central monitoring computer system, with 24by7 onsite personnel to view and respond, software to run the system, trained hardware and software personnel, etc. The list goes go. This is not a trivial process to get running initially correctly and continue perpetually.

PublicWorks said...

You don't need 24x7 onsite personnel. A failure of a single system is not 'catastrophic' or cause for a major health hazard.

It is not trivial to get running intially, no system is. The performance over 30 day and 90 day periods of course is critical to proving average performance (just like a treatment plant).

But you have to remember that average performances of individual systems are not really all that important if they are all installed on thousands of lots, because the overall collective average performance of the total system over the same periods will tend to be extremely stable, where 9-10 systems having an outage, monitoring problem, or failure over a one month period 'get lost in the mud' so to speak.

Jeez, the poster makes it sound like you need the septic police running around "we've got 10-24 piranna lock-up on 3rd street, all units respond at once, emergency, call the swat team".

Of course if the failure rates were in the hundreds, that's a different story. The key question on this system is the replacement period and reliability. If it has to be replaced every 4-5 years, needs a disinfection filter, a new tank for watertighness, a new leachfield, then the costs start to add up.

Even then, it could produce totally pure H2O and it wouldn't meet the 'ol discharge prohibition. Such is wastewater 'hell' in Los Osos.

Sewertoons said...

Let's see how this Pirana thing would work. The cost is $4,500. Does it come in smaller sizes? Maybe you would need one of those "Nitrohammer" gizmos too, but we have no price on that, so never mind, I won't add that in just yet. Then it would have to fit in your septic tank, and it requires a technician to install. Reminder: call Wyckham's Pirana Patrol and make an appointment on Monday.

Whoops, my septic appears to be damaged or otherwise unfit for Pirana duty, price tag for new septic, $5,000. Maybe I better get one of those pressurized ones in case STEP is picked for the collection method, don't want to dig up my yard twice... OK, for now we'll just pray that the leachfield is fine - don't really want to know about it as my lot is 25' and the leachfield is in the back yard....

Next stop, Wyckham's patented bugs. How often and how much and by whom? A service contract? - at how much quarterly?

OK so I can get a nifty installment plan to pay for all this, as I sure as hell can't cough up even the $4500, and well, my credit may not be so hot, and now I can't get a loan against my house because -

So let's say I am paying with my last empty Visa card. Don't know if this really qualifies as a home improvement tax deduction - let's hope the feds think so, 'cause I'm claiming it.... With interest and all over the next 20 years, I am paying $17,000 and wait - I have to start paying fines in 2010 as there is no WWTF to hook up to?

Just saw a new sign - Wyckham's Portable Pirana Huts!!

Churadogs said...

Publicworks sez:"The 7mg/l she referes to is effluent, without soil effects. So whether it's a Piranna or a sewer, soil effects and further de-nitrification as discharges move through soil is a valid scientific question for both types of systems, but a moot point for regulation."

According to the RWQCB's Mr. Water Science Guy, testifying at the CDO hearing, nitrates go straight through the soil and right into the groundwater, a statement that caused my eyebrows to fly up. Yet here you are saying denitrification takes place in the soil? Would you please go tell that to the RWQCB's official Mr. Science Guy? Apparently he doesn't know that.

"Ann, how does every house being different make CDOs legally questionable? - jeez, where do you make up some of this stuff."

The whole point of the prohibition zone was because the RWQCB claimed the nitrates from the septic systems were polluting the upper aquifer, causing the levels to rise above state accepted levels. If the nitrates returned to state levels, there would be no need for a prohibiton zone. Interestingly, there are folks outside the prohibiton that are sitting in low areas that simply must be pollution, but they're o.k. Reason? You'll have to ask the RWQCB why they drew the prohibiton line the way they did: Science or expediency?

The discharge from a sewer plant was intended to return "clean" (7.mgl nitrates) to the groundwater and in about 30 years it was hoped that this recycling would reduce the nitrate levels in the upper aquifer to safe, state accepted levels. People outside the prohibition zone were deemed NOT to be polluting (otherwise they would have been included) But there are houses inside the prohibiton zone that are exempt and I have no doubt there are homes inside the prohibition zone that are not contributing nitrates since the're high enough from groundwater that their septic discharge complete denitrifies before it reaches the aquifer. ground water, for example, yet the'yre required to hook up to a sewer.

so, if you're NOT polluting the waters of the state of california, and you NOT adding nitrates to the upper aquifer, or you've installed a system that delivers 1/2 the nitrates than the planned sewerplant, someone want to tell me what the problem is? Except a "political" one that has nothing to do with nitrates and groundwater?


"Every house discharging less than 7mg/l (if all other requirements are equal - not a simple assumption) would be the same as a treatment plant."

Uh, o.k. so if that's the case, why would we be forced to build and hook up to a treatmentplant, especailly if every houshold was discharging LESS than what a treatment plant would. I'm missing something here.

Sewertoons sez:"OK so I can get a nifty installment plan to pay for all this, as I sure as hell can't cough up even the $4500, and well, my credit may not be so hot, and now I can't get a loan against my house because - "

Take this same dire scenario but place it with the proposed mad pumping scheme the RWQCB is proposing; The pumper tank comes as scheduled and you're short of cash, you don't pump on schedule, you get hit with $10,000 a day fines. What do you do?

Or, the sewer plant is built and you can't affort the $200 - ?? a month it costs. What do you do?

Any solution will involve finances of some sort or other. The constantly unstated problem is this: if you can't afford whatever system is installed, you will be forced to sell and move,take out a reverse mortgage (if you qualify) or . . . what?

PublicWorks said...

"Reason? You'll have to ask the RWQCB why they drew the prohibiton line the way they did: Science or expediency?"

C'mon Ann. It's density. The average density in the proh. zone is about 1/10 of an acre or so. It's total Nitrate loading - simple. Regulations, like all laws, draw the lines somewhere. It's not an invalid reason. And where are the high Nitrate readins - under the prohibition zone. As to why soil effects don't get much if any credit, they actually do - IN an area where the density is smaller - hence the prohibition zone.

A large prohibition zone has a socio-economic benefit of spreading the cost. It is what it is, a regulatory response to pollution.

"Uh, o.k. so if that's the case, why would we be forced to build and hook up to a treatmentplant, especailly if every houshold was discharging LESS than what a treatment plant would. I'm missing something here. "

If Los Osos households 20 years ago had PAID money individually or collectively to install and monitor systems that lowered discharges, then you'd have a better case. Ann keeeps forgetting that over a 20 year period, people have realized a benefit approaching $20,000 to $30,000 by polluting and not doing anything about it. Over that period, people in SLO, MB, Pismo have paid $20-$40/month treating wastewater AND paying fines. Los Osos has paid zilch.

So Ann, if every house spends $10,000 - $30,000 needed to do their part by 2010, maybe there won't be a treatment plant needed. Although, who can afford that?

As to affordibility - yes, what is Los Osos as a community going to do about it? Are they going to get creative, and get together to create non-profit investment banks and pursue grants and financing to fund assistance? Are SLO County & local financial institutions going to help back it? It sure helped to spit in the eye of a $35 million grant from the feds, didn't it? Or is Los Osos going to complain, fight, and litigate like it did for the prior 20 years which accomplished nothing and made it more unaffordible?

Anonymous said...

It seems that this blog has gotten down to debating the details of urine processing in Los Osos.

According to Wyckham, his system is only a mitigation process NOT A FINAL SOLUTION. This gizmo has now morphed to THE SOLUTION.

None of the posters on this blog have claimed to be experts in urine treatment therefore what is offered is speculation by all.

Here are some of my speculations:

(1. Need thirty feed of LO sand to break down urine to acceptable levels (my house sits at 32 feet but the discharge from my septic is ~ 17 feet to ground water as is most of the surrounding homes in my neighborhood)
(2. Acre lots (within half mile of me) leach out more or less parallel to the ground thus dispersing in wider areas to accomplish urine concentration reduction.
(3. Cabrillo areas are also larger lots (though not acre size) but are much higher above the ground water AND more importantly; the ground water beneath their houses flows east thus not polluting our ground water.
(4. State requires ~ 10 years of verifiable evidence of urine treatment success before acceptance of any WWTP methodology.
(5. The highest concentration of Urine Factories lies along the Back Bay shoreline, which is the heart of the PZ.
(6. Approximately half the voting population thinks the current CSD will provide a cheaper better system, while the other half think not.
(7. As a result of the stalemate that #6 presents, financing of further studies, designs, property acquisitions, etc. seems very doubtful.
(8. Claims of future costs range from nothing (don’t need no stinking sewer) to upwards of 3/4 hundred/mo.

I personally do not buy into the concept that government or developers, etc. are trying to run everybody out of town. I also don’t buy into the idea that there is some magically simple solution costing next to nothing that is available but the “conspiracy” won’t allow it. If it sounds too good to be true, it is NOT TRUE.

Surely after all these years, the science of Urine treatment is well understood, documented, implemented, and working world wide to a level that does the job.

Technology offers POTENCIAL improvements for the efficiencies and cost savings for system operations (e.g. wireless remote sensors vs human monitoring) but doesn’t obviate the need to treat Urine (or Feces) to an acceptable level.

Putting spins aside and to improve the quality of our debating, argue the Urine treatment science. For example, is thirty feet to ground water accurate, does Cabrillo ground water flow East, does Pirhana have ten years of documentation as a treatment facility or does it even work as advertised?

Anonymous said...

All this discussion about urine got me thinking:

If all of the citizenry the PZ would just eat more asparagus and drink more belgian ales, couldn't our "personal" nitrate levels be brought into compliance with state regulation?

We wouldn't need any kind of sophisticated monitoring system at all. Just an airtight container and a padded mailer addressed to the relevant state agency would be all that was required. If, after testing, one's nitrate level was found to be noncompliant, a state certified dietician would meet to discuss your personal eating habits in order to effect the required outcome.

In this way, we get to keep our septics and at the same time become one of the healthiest communities on the planet.

Shark Inlet said...

The problem with today's editorial in the Trib is that editorial claimed that returning to TriW is a non-starter all the while saying that speed is of the essence.

If you want speed, you should go with TriW. If you refuse TriW you are refusing the fastest possible solution.

Some would suggest that "out of town" will be quick, but I would hazard a guess that if Al and Julie can hold things up for years, a few motivated folks east of town could probably find a good legal argument that the WWTF ought to be within the LOCSD boundaries ... especially if a site inside the district has already been approved and permitted. I would guesstimate that 5 years would be a minimum time before any project could even start.

Nope, sooner equals cheaper so sooner must equal TriW.

I did like the part about the RWQCB holding off on fines and the like and the SWRCB giving us back the SRF ... but it did seem that the Trib overlooked the fact that these problems are only because our current board chose to stop the only project that could get the sewer in place before the start of the next decade.

I'm all for trying to compromise and get along but there is no way TW and CCLO are going to be able to compromise because there is no way for both to achieve their goals at the same time. One side says "let's go for what is quickest and cheapest" and the other side is saying "let's move the sewer no matter how much it costs."

However, not all hope is lost ... as I've pointed out here before, compromise can occur, but it will only be possible when the current board decides to be flexible. If the current board were to compromise with property owners and sign a pledge to build at TriW if an "out of town" plant can't be proven possible before 2010 and can't be proven chaper, I am sure that property owners would be willing to back off a bit. Certainly such compromise would indicate that the board is at least willing to set a limit on our costs. Presumably then property owners are far more likely to pass a 218 vote to borrow money to pursue such an out of town plant. However, if the current board is unwilling to bend, they'll not get a 218 vote. Property owners will simply hope for dissolution or a new majority in November.


The way things are going, however, even if the SWRCB stops trying to get their money back, the contractors walk away from their losses and the RWQCB stop trying CDOs and even if they repeal the ACL findings that equal $10k/day in fines ... even if all that good stuff happens, unless we get a SRF, we have no hope of getting a project off the ground. Simply put, no sane person would buy bonds from this district at any interest rate below 10-15% and an interest rate that high puts any project out of reach.


Nope, this is a nightmare of a situation Trib had it wrong ... the current board is the problem, not just a group who needs to stop nitpicking.

Sewertoons said...

Shark,

Thank you for a really excellent assessment of an article that was trying so hard to play both sides against the middle. WHAT A LAME ARTICLE!

I really wish that a pro-CSD person would answer back, but I suppose with no defense, there will be no answer.

PublicWorks said...

The article stated that all the litigation was due to proponents of the Tri-W site. What a bunch of bull.

Most of the lawsuits were responses to contracts, and not suing over a site per se, - and were for not adhering to them. Like a contract to perform to a loan, to perform construction, like to adhere to an assesment, etc. Two suits against prop. B, because of more than just a site, because it was not within the domain of voters/CSD to implement.

But maybe that's just nit-picking.

Churadogs said...

Publicworks sez:"So Ann, if every house spends $10,000 - $30,000 needed to do their part by 2010, maybe there won't be a treatment plant needed. Although, who can afford that?"

If "a treatment plant [wasn't] needed," then you'd have to compare the cost of the Pirhana with paying $205 a month (Tri W) forever?

If you meant using Pirhana as mitigation vs the cost of pumping every other month, then it would be $4,000 plus $150 a year monitoring fee (Pirana) versus $500 a pump 6 x year until 2010 followed by $10,000 a day fines if no sewer is built. (pumping estimate, may be more with gas prices and any required air filters & etc), wouldn't the Pirana mitigation system be waaaayyy cheaper in either version.)

and: "As to affordibility - yes, what is Los Osos as a community going to do about it? Are they going to get creative, and get together to create non-profit investment banks and pursue grants and financing to fund assistance? Are SLO County & local financial institutions going to help back it? It sure helped to spit in the eye of a $35 million grant from the feds, didn't it? Or is Los Osos going to complain, fight, and litigate like it did for the prior 20 years which accomplished nothing and made it more unaffordible?"

Very interesting, a sort of non-profit municipal project, eh? That's worth thinking about.

Anonymous sez:

"Putting spins aside and to improve the quality of our debating, argue the Urine treatment science. For example, is thirty feet to ground water accurate, does Cabrillo ground water flow East, does Pirhana have ten years of documentation as a treatment facility or does it even work as advertised?"

Question for all. The RWQCB and the SWB require all kinds of things for systems IF YOU USE THIER NICE MONEY TO BUILD IT. But if you use somebody else's nice money, you don't have to jump through their regulatory hoops. For example, the AWIPS System proposed for the Ponds of Avalon couldn't get SRF money because it didn't have X number of years of data. However, Gary Karner noted at a wastewater committee meeting years ago, IF we bonded and funded the AWIPS system ourselves, the RWQCB would have no say in the matter. (Remember, they can't tell you what to build, only that you meet their discharge numbers.)And he estimated the cost difference between the two as about $5 - 6 higher.

Question here: Does that 10 year rule of data apply only to SRF Loans? The claim that a STEP/STEG system would require every tank be replaced, double and triple back up systems and alarms be installed, etc. were all requirements by the SWB's SRF IF YOU WANTED THEIR NICE MONEY. They were not state or RWQCB requirements otherwise. If you did a design build, you could install whatever the designer/builder felt met all various codes & etc. and whatever safety and redundancies needed, but you wouldn't have to meet certain other SRF requirements since you weren't using the SRF's nice money.

Shark Inlet said...

Anonymous raises a good point when he writes "According to Wyckham, his system is only a mitigation process NOT A FINAL SOLUTION. This gizmo has now morphed to THE SOLUTION."

If the cost of the gizmo is $4000 and we'll need it until the sewer comes online, it may save us money over pumping and it may be something the RWQCB would sign off on. I suspect that they would, in fact, be happy if we were to be using this device ... except for two things ... the LOCSD board would then argue that if the "temporary" solution is good enough to be a temporary solution it should be good enough as a permananent solution and this board chose to stop a project that was so close to completion that we could almost taste the benefit in our drinking water aready. This board has chosen to put off a solution to our wastewater problem for an undetermined number of years (but I would bet on at least five, probably closer to ten if they get their way and permanently stop TriW). The RWQCB is probably looking at this situation and figuring that water quality will be better sooner and the bills of the Los Osos residents will be (in the long run) lower if they provide some financial encouragement (in the form of a stick) to get our board to return to TriW.

Essentially, the gizmo might be a good thing. However, without the threat of CDOs, none of us would voluntarily pay for such a device unless we knew it would be a permanent solution.

So ... here's a question. If the cost of the project gets so high (due to the actions of this board), would the RWQCB back off their requirement that we be sewered and allow for such fancy gizmos to be our sole source of wastewater treatment? I would hope so if the gizmo actually does work. (Note: if it doesn't work quite as well as advertised or it breaks down far too quickly, it would be a huge mistake to adopt the gizmo as a solution.)

However, for our current board to intentionally raise the costs so high that they are going to try to force the RWQCB into accepting gizmos is unconscionable. They didn't run on that platform. If that is their goal, they are deliberately not telling us their strategy and such actions by a governmental agency are simply wrong and illegal (Brown act violation).

Let's pursue the idea of the gizmo being a permanent solution just a bit more. I would think that such a means to a solution puts far more burden on the property owner than I like. The CSD essentially is cut out of the loop unless the CSD is the owner of the device or provides regular maintenence. I would rather the CSD act like an insurance company or a utility ... I write them a check every month and they make sure my urine is treated properly, whether onsite or off. I don't want to have to pay for a new gizmo when it breaks ... I want my monthly bills to cover such charges.

Okay, can it be done? If the cost of buying them is $4k each and if the anual maintenence runs $240 and if only 5% need to be replace in any given year it would cost us $20M to buy the beasts, probably $5M to set them up and a bit less than $2.5M per year for O&M. If we were to finance the $25M at 10% over 30 years it would give us monthly bills less than $100. However, once we add in the amount we owe contractors and the SWRCB (perhaps $25M total) our costs with the gizmo as our permanent solution would be a bit about $130/month. If we aren't fined as individuals for taking that road but the CSD does have to pay $10k/day according to the ACL hearing, we're talking a bit under $200/month.

I can't say whether scientifically the gizmo is a good thing or not ... I'll just say that anyone who believes the elevated nitrates are from vegetation not from urine (Wickham) has little scientific credibility. However, if we were to be able to go this route, it might save us some money over what the board currently states they intend to do.

Myself, I would rather a sewer and a WWTF at TriW than gizmos on every property...

Anonymous said...

Ron said:
'They whine about the officiating, they whine about the playing conditions, they whine about the rules...'

And an Anon said:
'I mean come on, the recall election was really only won by what 20 votes or something?'

Ron Replied:
'I think I speak for all sports fans everywhere when I say, "uggghhh." '

I reply back:
What's going on in Los Osos is NOT a SPORT! What's going on there is affecting everyone whether you are a property owner or a renter. I think a lot of people were hoodwinked with false promises from the get go. I can only speculate here. But I feel that if we were to hold a vote right now today, the results would be way different (and it wouldn't be skewed by a mere 20 votes).

------

That same Anon said:
'The current CSD is NOT making any forward progress in building a new sewer...'

Ron replied:
'Other than hiring a reputable wastewater engineering firm to design "a new sewer." '

I reply back:
Since when does hiring someone to design something mean you are moving forward. All it means to me is yet another bill for the community. Add that to all the other expenses and litigation the CSD is piling up. Still not moving forward... We have a design, we had permits, we were building the thing. Now, we have an ugly hole in the middle of town.

-fiveo

Shark Inlet said...

Oh, ignore Ron.

He's always tooting about parks and such. Furthermore, his comment that suggests Ripley is reputable but MWH is not make it clear that he isn't interested in research or facts but just in showing that he was right years ago.

Ripley and MWH are both reputable firms. MWH has a longer track record but becuase Ron considers them biased and tainted and therfore not reputable, I must ask Ron whether he thinks that Julie Biggs and her law firm aren't reputable for much the same reason he dismisses MWH.

PublicWorks said...

Poster sez,

"'They whine about the officiating, they whine about the playing conditions, they whine about the rules...'"

how many times have they complained about DA investigations, or lack thereof?? talk about whining about the officiating.

The LOCSD complaining about everything the RWQCB does is not whining about the officiating??

The LOCSD / staff complaining about court decisions (not court cases mind you, but court decisions) is not whining about the officiating??

The LOCSD (and others) complaining about the discharge prohibition (how it was created, how big it is, etc.) is not whining about the officiating???

Politics is the art of whining.

Sewertoons said...

This information is off of the ABG site:
http://abgwws.com/

"When you have a Pirana installed, you can depend on regular visits while the leach field is in the process of remediation."

"You wouldn't buy a car without the facility to take care of it...and your property is worth more than your car. Pirana maintenance is a must."

"More than 1,500 Pirana systems have been installed by Dr. Wickham and associates over a time span of five years."

I don't think 5 years will cut it with the water boards.

Also, I would be interested to know what remediation there is with a Pirana for drugs that are not fully metabolized and exit the body (hopefully no one is flushing their out of date drugs - but then, how do you regulate that)?

Also, to lessen the nitrates coming out of the system at the Firehouse, an extra device, a "Nitrohammer" was also installed. At what cost? It wasn't mentioned at the last meeting.

Another side note of interest, the CSD pursuing the possibility of another SRF loan. First, that seems a little absurd as they are being sued to get the remains of the old loan back, but for "let's pretend's" sake, if the state agrees they don't need to pay it back and drops the lawsuit, just what do they intend to do with the money? Since the Board hates traditional sewer systems, STEP/STEG comes to mind. That would require that all of our septics be replaced. Very expensive. That was the problem the last time STEP/STEG came up. So WHY are they looking for this money?

Shark is right:
"…without the threat of CDOs, none of us would voluntarily pay for such a device unless we knew it would be a permanent solution."

It looks to me to be one expense on top of another, upcoming expense. No thanks!

Shark, your theory about the current board intentionally raising the costs so high that they would force the RWQCB to accepting the gizmo is really, really scary and entirely possible. A lot of what this board does seems unconscionable. And they just keep right on doing it.

Churadogs said...

Sewertoons sez:"Shark is right:
"…without the threat of CDOs, none of us would voluntarily pay for such a device unless we knew it would be a permanent solution."

Really? If you had the choice of voluntarily installing a Piranha OR getting a CDO put on your property which would require you pump 6 x a year, which would you choose?

Sewertoons sez:"Also, to lessen the nitrates coming out of the system at the Firehouse, an extra device, a "Nitrohammer" was also installed. At what cost? It wasn't mentioned at the last meeting."

I suggest you go to the ABG website and send them an email asking them to explain the difference between the Piranha system and the "sludge-hammer." That will give you the answer to your question.

Shark Inlet said...

Ann,

Perhaps you are not into reading comprehension all that much.

I said that without being required to or being "motivated" by a CDO, no one would voluntarily pay $4000 for a short term solution.