Sewer or Die
In the CDO and CAO documents sent to The Los Osos 45, it babbles on about having to come up with alternative systems to meet the zero discharge requirements if a county wastewater plan wasn’t “making good progress,” (as defined by the RWQCB) by 2011. If you had no “alternative systems,” you could be fined up to $5,000 a day, and could also be “exposed to accumulation of daily penalties while such discharges continue.” In short, you’d lose your home in short order.
So, PZLDF invited Harvey Packard of the RWQCB to come tell the public just what alternative systems could be used, you know, the ones babbled about in the CDOs and CAOs, the ones the RWQCB is supposed to “help” citizens with, and could Mr. Packard bring a list of approved systems, and could anyone get started on looking into installing one now so they’d be safe just in case the Prop 218 vote failed or the county failed for any reason?
The answer from Mr. Packard came in an email and is as follows. Despite what the language of the CDO’s say, in the real world where the RWQCB treats language and language-in-documents as fungible as wisps of fog, in practical reality, it’s clear that no alternative system will be allowed by the RWQCB. So, it’s simply Sewer or Die. Not that the RWQCB is telling anyone what kind of system to use, mind you.
“Gail, regarding my coming to a community meeting in Los Osos, I've spoken with Paavo Ogren about having me at one of their regular meetings in Los Osos to talk about Water Board issues. Paavo said he would get back to me with a proposed date.
We do not see enhanced or alternative individual onsite systems to be a solution to wastewater problems in Los Osos. As staff, we do not plan on recommending approval of such systems to the Water Board. You mention three reasons why people are asking about these systems:
1) back-up cost comparison for a community system.
I don't have any information about costs. People need to research that information.
2) they want to be fully prepared to comply if the County fails.
Alternative individual systems will not provide compliance with the discharge prohibition. The Basin Plan prohibits waste discharges altogether, without making allowances for meeting a particular treatment standard. The Basin Plan does provide for exceptions to the prohibition, which we would recommend the Board granting for a suitable community system, but we will not recommend exceptions for individual alternative systems.
3) others want to treat and recycle water on their lots.
This might be an acceptable alternative if the owner can show that all waste is removed from the effluent or taken up before it reaches groundwater. However, since most lots in the prohibition zone aren't big enough to use all of the wastewater generated by a residence, especially in the winter, the owner of such a system would still need to hook up to the community wastewater system. Proper use of a grey-water system for irrigation, combined with a community-wide collection system for blackwater, would be more appropriate.
On a happier note, the last sentence of his email should be immediately explored. In a recent Tribune article, it was noted that various Water Officials (The Water Gods) throughout the state are (finally) getting really, really concerned. With climate change, they’re already seeing water shortages now, and are sounding the alarm that something has to be done now to waylay disaster only a few years away. (It’s no good “importing” State Water when there IS no water to import. All cities and counties that rely on State Water will end up with is a very nice – empty – water PIPE, but . . . no water.)
So, can we all start working with the RWQCB on a practical way to set up permitted greywater systems for our homes, thereby reducing water use for our yards? To date, the County’s wastewater plans are clearly focused on “sustainable,” which, in a basin that’s already in serious overdraft, is a smart move. Besides simply installing low-flow items for use IN the home, perhaps everyone in Los Osos needs to seriously look at installing greywater systems for OUTSIDE the home, thereby reducing their total water use.
So, maybe Harvey could come to the community to talk about exactly what greywater systems he would consider approving and permitting? Unless that’s another piece of typical RWQCB Hobson’s Choice smoke and mirrors, you know, the old wallet-tied-to-the-string trick: Homeowner asks about greywater sytems only to be told, Oh, we can’t tell you what kind of system you can use, you’ll have to go spend tons of money investigating systems, bring us a complete plan THEN we’ll tell you, sorry, pay no attention to what we said in the email, we never did have any intention of permitting any greywater systems in the PZ, fooled ya, bwa-hahahahahah.
Meanwhile, don’t forget: Town Hall Meeting, Tuesday, June 19, 2007, Los Osos Middle School, 6 pm. for the SLO County Project Team’s presentation of” technical options” for the wastewater treatment system and for “developing approaches to long term sustainable water management.”