Saturday, October 13, 2007


AES, i.e. Tom Murphy and Mark Low, who are promoting an onsite system via the Reclamator, have now set up a website at , have run a big "No on 218" ad in the local papers, and are communicating with the RWQCB, County and other entities since the Process the county has set up includes examination of “alternative” sytems. The interesting battle now underway will likely be between Mr. Mruphy, the Law, the EPA, the County, a Dictionary, Engineers, and Humpty Dumpty Briggs at the Regional Water Quality Control Board. You recall, it was Humpty Dumpty in “Through the Looking Glass,” that sniffed, “When I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.”

As I’ve noted before, when the Los Osos 45 were being pointlessly hammered, it was fascinating to me to see how the RWQCB began morphing then deleting “words” in their official filings. At first words like “pollution” and “nuisance” and “waters of the State of California” appeared. Soon, they were . . . gone. And all that was left was the word “discharge.” Discharge of . . . what? Who knows? So that’s where Mr. Low & Mr. Murphy and the RWQCB will find themselves – defining words that the RWQCB is free to “disappear” or morph or whatever. They can do this for YEARS until their victim can finally get into a real court to get a real judge to define the word for real. So, herewith an email reply by Mr. Murphy to Supervisor Gibson’s concerns with some of the onsite issues.

I’ll be intrigued to see how those words play out. If the idea is to protect groundwater from “pollution,” and if the Reclamator doesn’t “pollute,” then it’ll be interesting to see what meanings the RWQCB will make up so as to declare that it isn’t legally permitable or if it does need a permit, ensure the permit requirements are so onerous that a community wide sewer would be cheap by comparison, and other fun games.

Meantime, their Reclamator keeps raising Basic Questions, such as, If the PZ and 83-13 is all about not polluting the upper aquifer and IF the Reclaimator doesn't pollute the upper aquifer, WHAT'S THE PROBLEM? Or, is the issue overdraft and salt water intrusion due to over pumping of the lower aquifer and IF the Reclamator allows onsite re-use of treated water so that homeowners don't have to use deep aquifer water to water their petunias, thereby reducing pumping instantly, WHAT'S THE PROBLEM? And IF the Reclamator results in "no pollutant" discharges and reduces water use and can do it all for about 1/2 the price of a community-wide collection and centralized treatment system, then WHAT'S THE PROBLEM? And so forth.

See what I mean? Some clear answers to the above would be helpful BEFORE anyone votes for anything, methinks. Well, as with all things Sewerish, Stay Tuned.

From, Tom Murphy to Mark Low. Sent: Friday, October 12, 2007 3:30 PM
Subject: RE: Bruce Gibson speaks on WATERBOARD


Please find the following addressing the raised concerns from Bruce Gibson last night. We will discuss with Nara as to where it would be appropriate to post these on our site.

“Alternative treatment provider must submit for “permit”.

Correct! Any alternative “treatment” system which “treats wastewater for disposal” still produces “pollutants” and “discharges waste” and is therefore subject to a “discharge permit” requirement so it can “legally” discharge such pollutants. A “permit” is a method of regulatory enforcement which applies to all “treatment” alternatives which still produce pollutants as is defined in the US EPA Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCL). The MCLs represent levels of contaminants in water which still are to be considered a threat to public health. The “Reclamator” doesn’t “discharge pollutants” and therefore IS NOT subject to any requirement to acquire a permit to “discharge waste”. The “Reclamator” was specifically designed NOT to discharge pollutants or waste so as to meet the federally mandated requirements to “eliminate the discharge of pollutants” and provides for the maximum degree of effluent (wastewater) reduction as a result. The purified water produced by the Reclamator is a “valuable resource” which contains levels of pollutants which poses no threat to public health. As such, the quality of water produced by the Reclamator achieves a “National Standard of Performance” which is published by the US EPA and is the standard required for public drinking water supplies to meet. This standard is the Maximum Contaminant Level Goals (MCLG) . In the “Definitions” of the MCLGs at the end of the standard, you will find the following definition: “Maximum Contaminant Level Goal (MCLG) - The level of a contaminant in drinking water below which there is no known or expected risk to health. MCLGs allow for a margin of safety and are non-enforceable public health goals.” “Non-enforceable” means “not subject to “enforcement” via a “discharge permit” requirement of a regulatory authority as the purified water produced by the “Reclamator” meets the MCLG standards which are “non-enforceable”. If the water produced by the Reclamator required a permit, then every time anyone wanted to turn on any faucet in their home, they would have to get a permit first.

“Daily monitoring for bacteria and viruses”.

There is no requirement or justification for a requirement to “monitor for bacteria and viruses” of the Reclamator as the result of its Ultra-Filtration membrane technology. In the past, this was a viable concern as all alternative treatment technologies consisted of only a “biological” process technology which is subject to upsets and failures and upon those upsets and failures, would pass untreated wastewater to the environment. However, the UF membrane technology is a “physical” treatment technology and ISN’T subject to any failure that would allow untreated wastewater to pass to the environment, just to the contrary, the UF membrane technology guarantees the water quality and won’t allow any pollutants to come in contact with the environment unless it is of the required quality. No water can pass the UF membrane unless it is of the required quality. This is referred to within the wastewater industry as a “definite barrier” of pollutants. However, monitoring of the Reclamator is still provided 24/7 via wireless network. Service requirements as needed will be communicated to AES via internet immediately, two days prior to any effect to service provided. NO BACTERIA OR VIRUSES CAN PASS THE UF MEMBRANE.

“The Water Board doesn’t see 5,000 systems can be effectively managed”

The Water Board has a “lack of knowledge and understanding” on this matter. The US EPA sees differently. The US EPA Voluntary National Guidelines for Management of Onsite and Clustered (Decentralized) Wastewater Treatment Systems ( provides for effective guidelines for efficient methods for management of any number of systems by a Responsible Management Entity (RME). AES is the RME and has adopted Management Model 5 – “RME Ownership” as its management model.

There is no limit to the number of systems which can be effectively managed. There will be central monitoring via internet of all Reclamators and a full time automatic response team in each area large enough to provide service as necessary, it’s that simple. It will be much easier to monitor and service an “appliance” which has an average historical service requirement of once every five years as compared to a waste management company like Waste Management who collects garbage from 5,000 homes (in Los Osos) “every week”. It is only a matter of implementing an “efficient business organization and management” program and practice.

In actuality, the Water Board is a regulatory authority, not a “business” authority. To be very frank, the Water Board has no right or authority to qualify the business capabilities of AES. The Water Board is commissioned by federal law to “promulgate” that such technology as the Reclamator exist. They, as per federal law requirements are obligated to “require” and to “assist” in the implementation of such technology as the Reclamator within their jurisdiction that is capable of “eliminating the discharge of pollutants”, provided it is available and economically achievable, which it is.

Peer Review Request Response

The following emails were received from Noel King and Supervisor Gibson, regarding an email I sent to the BOS and others asking for some sort of formal resolution that Dr. T and the peer review team be formally included in the Process. While there will be no formal “resolution,” the emails makes it clear that it is the County’s intention to include this review in the county’s project timeline and the matter may be discussed at the regular Tuesday, Oct 16th BOS meeting and/or the Oct 23 Vote Protest Meeting. I thank them both for their clarifications.

Ms. Calhoun,
Thank you for providing your input regarding this particular aspect of ourLos Osos Sewer project process.

We will not be presenting a resolution for our Board's approval on October16 that repeats our intent to use a peer review process headed by Dr. T.

Paavo Ogren is taking a well deserved, and needed, vacation break this week, and the deadline for any agenda item submittals for the Oct. 16 Bd.of Supervisors agenda is this Thursday.

I will tell you now, as we have stated publicly before, the peer reviewprocess is standard procedure for us on large projects, and we understandthat it is critical for the property owners in Los Osos that it occur onthis one.

In our August 14, 2007 Board Agenda item, we submitted our work plan flowsheet for 2008 to the Board for their understanding and commitment to thepeople, and they approved that item unanimously. That work flow sheetclearly lists the peer review function prominently as being planned for thefirst half of the 2008 work schedule.

We have valued Dr. T's input so far in this process, and we have madearrangements for him to head a peer review team for our project if the votepasses.

We can't really state this any clearer. However, I will ask Paavo to makeanother confirming statement at the October 23 Protest Hearing. Hopefully,this helps resolve your concern in this regard. If you would like to discuss this further with me, please feel free to call me @ 781-5252.

Ms. Calhoun,In discussing your request in the office this morning, I realized that I provided a piece of incorrect information below. The deadline for completing agenda items for the October 16 Board meeting was last Thursday,not this Thursday. I was thrown off a bit by the Monday holiday.

The agenda review and the posting has already occurred for the 16th agenda. This Thursday is the deadline for the 23rd agenda.As Supervisor Gibson stated, we will try to once again get this on the record in one of the upcoming two meetings in some fashion, possiblyverbal. I'm not sure how just yet.----- Forwarded by Noel King/PubWorks/COSLO on 10/09/2007 05:09 PM -----

And the following email was received from Supervisor Bruce Gibson on the same issue:

Ann -- As Noel indicates, we are on the record as planning to have peer review at appropriate points in our process. Paavo has spoken to our intent to involve Dr. T in this effort. We were considering creating a memo that covered these points (and our commitment to making this project as affordable as possible), that would have been presented at the BoS meeting on 10/16. We didn't get a chance to draft that memo before Paavo left on vacation this week. Paavo will speak to these issues on 10/16 (no need to wait until 10/23). He will review policies that the Board has previously adopted and show how they cover the concerns that you reference. Please let me know if you have any further questions. I will be holding office hours at Sea Pines this Thursday at 4 PM. Best regards, Bruce

Design Build Workshop

I was out of town on the 10th and so unable to attend this Los Osos Workshop. Herewith a PZLDF press release on the event. I understand that the workshop was taped by AGP and can be viewed on the AGP web site.

Follow-Up Release

Design-Build Option Could Answer the Cost Question For Los Osos Voters

The workshop was well attended and packed the Community Center with 150 or more citizens from all sides of the 218 project vote.

Citizens for Clean Water-Prohibition Zone Legal Defence Fund made it clear that the group does not advocate how to vote, but believes information is vital for an informed vote. The Group is currently holding the enforcement line for the embattled community with the active appeal of the water board enforcement orders in Superior Court. The random enforcement began against individual property owners in the prohibition zone after the 2005 recall. The water board has stated in several meetings that the purpose of the actions is to change the will of the people, and to affect how they vote in the future.

Media, including KSBY 6 and press were in attendance. Five county TAC members were on hand to learn more about the Design-Build-Finance that the County will consider using to lower costs and move the project forward, or also available to the CSD as an option if the 218 vote is protested.

The speakers touted the method's potential for cost savings, time savings, opportunities for innovation and implementation flexibility, reduces duplication, administrative burdens, and shifts the risks from the community. The crowd was most impressed with the distinct benefit of knowing and approving full project costs up front before signing contracts or committing homes in open-ended assessments.



The traditional project delivery system is a design bid build that is a step-by-step, segmented, sequential process in which the owner first contracts for a design professional to prepare a plan, design, and suitable for construction documents. These plans are then used as the specifications to solicit bids. Finally, construction contract is awarded to the responsible low bidder, and usually there is another contract for a professional firm to manage the construction.

Design-Build is one entity that performs both design and construction under a single contract. The award of the contract is based on a competitive process that seeks the “best value” through a qualifications process. Public contract code defines “best value… to include “price, features and functions [and] lifecycle costs.”

The County adopted strategies that include Design-Build on August 14, 2007. This straightforward method to deliver infrastructure projects is supported by California’s Governor and is gaining steam.

The Ripley Team has assembled a highly qualified professional team that is backed by GE financial. The Design-Build-Private Finance delivery model is not new, and has been used successfully for years to build toll roads, as well as large and difficult projects faster and more efficiently than the traditional path. In fact, County has stated the funding may affect price as much as the technology selected.

Incentives for a Design-Build-Finance team to share savings with the community are real advantages to consider. Private financing often provides the flexibility for developing financing strategies unique to the community, such as financing on-lot costs, longer term loans, and life-line rates for disadvantaged individuals.

Design Build offers cost savings, time Savings, opportunities for innovation, and may reduce risk. The community believes this is definitely worth looking at.

Everyone is after a project that is sustainable, affordable, environmentally sound, socially responsible, forward thinking, with an efficient delivery, but most of all, that a “Best Value” project is delivered this time.


Mike Green said...

Ann wrote:
"As I’ve noted before, when the Los Osos 45 were being pointlessly hammered, it was fascinating to me to see how the RWQCB began morphing then deleting “words” in their official filings."

Im also interested in the morphing of PZLDF into Citizens for Clean Water. Interesting.
The Sullivan brief made a pretty good case against the unjust action of thewater board against the random doomed 45, but where is it now? Seems to have morphed into some PAC.

Rick said...

I find it extremely disturbing that we are just hearing about this now, right in the very last days of voting.

We're being asked to take on faith that the Water Board will approve this device. They are out of control petty Napoleons, and we're supposed to believe that just because the law says this should work that they'll accept that?

I also find it extremely improper for the promoters of this device to be financing a campaign based on smut peddling, calling some unknown straw man a "lie" and that it's a "blank check" and all sorts of other misleading information, funded by someone trying to sell us something that might not get approved (even if it should).

I was extremely mad when the RWQCB sued the 45. When I got my "enforcement letter" in the Spring, I nearly filed a federal lawsuit on my own, but now I am thoroughly sick of these shenanigans.

If you can give me a signed permit from the water board certifying the reclamator, I'll buy one. But you can't. You can just mess up this election and put the whole town back in limbo, once again.

Meanwhile, none of this is helping the 45, who are still being illegally persecuted.

Area51 said...

Al Barrow has boasted on many occassions he could delay the building of a sewer forever. Hence the "Reclamator" comes to town. These disgusting carpetbaggers were brought in by Barrow to further muddy the waters with the appearance of riding in on their white horse to save the day. Sound familiar Los Osos? Like better, cheaper, faster? Or we've got a plan; $100.00 a month, we're ready to go, you won't get CDO's? Barrow and these lowlifes have come to believe Los Ososans are stupid enough to fall for all this once again. I sure hope they are wrong.

Churadogs said...

Rick sez:"Rick said...
I find it extremely disturbing that we are just hearing about this now, right in the very last days of voting.

We're being asked to take on faith that the Water Board will approve this device. They are out of control petty Napoleons, and we're supposed to believe that just because the law says this should work that they'll accept that?"

Alas, that's how the game is played here. So many hidden agendas. I have repeatedly said that this isn't rocket science. It never was. This trainwreck shouldn't have happened, didn't need to happen, the 45 should never have been hammered, ALL of this was solvable except for hidden agendas, lies and people losing their marbles to save their careers, faces or behinds & etc.

On a more hopeful note, the County Process now requires (and listed in the last brochure) a note that they will consider "alternative" systems, of which the Reclamator is one. I no longer have ANY confidence in the RWQCB's science or even common sense, so NOTHING they have to say about ANYTHING holds any credibility for me anymore. BUT, the County engineers can run the numbers, so can Dr. T and the Peer Review Group. If CEQA and other federal laws & etc. require that best technology at the lowest price be used, then we'll see what we'll see. Plus, I find it interesting that -- literally -- the whole engineering world is now watching little Los Osos, with mouths gaped, no doubt. They also can access the data and run the numbers, so let us be hopeful that the day of burying figures and playing hide-the-salami with morphing definitions and unsupported SOCs and such like is over. Too many eyes on the page now.

Mike Green said...

So why are any of theses sewer saviors opposing the county process?
Maybe they fear the CEQA and peer review?
Maybe they fear the RWQCB?
Seems to me if they are so much better than anything in the TAC report that the due diligence required by the county would reveal that fact.


And just maybe they want a desperate captive customer base.

Mike said...

Everyone is after a project that is sustainable, affordable, environmentally sound, socially responsible, forward thinking, with an efficient delivery, but most of all, that a “Best Value” project is delivered this time.

Words, words and more words... does anyone NOT believe there will always be a "better, faster, cheaper" just around the corner and if we just wait long enough, even the RWQCB will propose and fund that perfect system...????

The Los Osos Union of Concerned Sewer Designers and Financial Wizards has stalled any sewer and would have us wait forever for that perfect system while continueing to cast words at the Enforcement arm of the State.

Vote Yes, be done with the words and get the sewer in the ground... even with the passage of the 218 measure, we call all be assured that there will be the continued war of words against any and all designs... Al may be right in his threat to drag out any sewer forever...

Churadogs said...

Mike sez:"Words, words and more words... does anyone NOT believe there will always be a "better, faster, cheaper" just around the corner and if we just wait long enough, even the RWQCB will propose and fund that perfect system...????"

Actually, various technologies in the SewerWorld and WaterWorld will keep improving. The trick for Los Osos is to end up with a system that uses 21st century technology and is FLEXIBLE enough to change to keep up with future innovations and a plan that puts enormous focus on WATER, since that's the really urgent need here.

What'll also get interesting is that AB885 is coming down the pike and that will make for an interesting game for all outside the PZ -- yet another reason why the PZ as drawn was/is sooooooo bad and why the basin plan really should have been reopened years ago to expand its boundries. (Something, by the way, that would have been done by a RWQCB actually interested in WATER QUALITY) Had that been done, we could be looking at a far better mixed-system that would offer benefits to far more people (and the watershed)

Next up on the horizon: Morro Bay's leaking sewer pipes -- reportedly rumorered to be every 10 feet. ??? Uh-oh. Dead silence on the part of the RWQCB, of course. THey're too busy hammering 45 hapless Los Osos citizens and wasting gazillions defending the indefensible in court. Hmmmmm, and so it goes.

Mike said...

If 218 does not pass, don't you think the 13 (not 45) will rapidly expand to all 4500 properties?

Can you honestly say that the CSD has done anything positive toward a system of providing clean water?

Certainly the County could have/should have, but that's no longer the issue is it...

Clean Water begins with halting the septic leaching into the soil and aquifiers. Won't even argue that that is not happening, it is, and we all know that. The water quality in our aquifiers is deteriorating and has reach a point where something must be done. This whole sewer war has been a giant waste of time and money, we actually had a sewer system designed and construction begun. Now we're waiting on yet another "sustainable" magic system that will be better, faster, cheaper than the one already begun. And what galls me is that there will be yet another system and another "peer review" if we continue down this path... and still no halt to the septic leaching into our drinking water. Just how long can Los Osos continue to foul our own drinking water...??? 30 years has been more than long enough...!!!! Now let the County get on with a sewer system that they should have put in years ago. ...and do away with this farce of a Community Service District, they have and continue to lie to the community and have thrown away our tax dollars to satisfy no one...!!!

The one thing I do agree with is to do away with the artificial PZ and sewer the entire LO Valley and heights, but not with the petty politicians and activists of LO... we are incapable of local government....

Shark Inlet said...


Again you seem to harp on the RWQCB for their bias against those in the PZ. I would suggest that exactly the opposite is true ... they've been extremely patient toward those in the PZ.

When the SLO or PB or AG or CMC have a sewage spill, they are fined. When septic systems in the PZ continue to pollute, no fine.

If the situation in Morro Bay is as you say, the RWQCB will require them to get their system fixed and if it isn't done in a timely and thoughtful way, they'll be fined. They may also be fined for allowing the pipes to deteriorate to such a poor state. Pretending as if the RWQCB is doing nothing ... just because you don't know what they are doing (have you even called?) ... seems to only inflame Los Osos residents during this voting period.

If you want to really get incensed about the RWQCB, you might want to ask yourself why the Monarch Grove neighborhood was fined tens of thousands of dollars for water quality problems with the treated effluent when the RWQCB knows darn well that others in town are causing far more pollution.

You and Mike make some really good points when discussing potential systems ... but it all comes down to this ... are the additional costs and delays for the fancier, greener sewage treatment methods worth it? We could argue forever on this issue because different scenarios for the future would imply different decisions today are the best choice. Questions about the likely CPI, interest rate, rate of inflation in construction, rate of inflation for energy as well as reliability of these various systems all must be answered before we can truly know which is the "best" project (if even then).

A good question for anyone in this discussion is this ... if changing projects means an additional year or more of delay and could lower our costs by 20% but could also raise them by as much as 40% would changing projects be a good idea? There is no right answer to this question, but it is far more realistic than those typically presented by the strident folks on either side.

Churadogs said...

Inlet sez:"A good question for anyone in this discussion is this ... if changing projects means an additional year or more of delay and could lower our costs by 20% but could also raise them by as much as 40% would changing projects be a good idea? There is no right answer to this question, but it is far more realistic than those typically presented by the strident folks on either side.

10:42 AM, October 16, 2007"

Said once, and I'll say again: We'll see. Isn't the Chinese character/word for Danger also the same word form Opportunity? What's going on has enormous risk but also enormous potential for a good outcome.

One thing I'd throw out here again is the costs for Tri W pre-recall were NOT accurate. Still to come were pahse II for, what, another $20 mil? Increased energy costs, no flexibility if enlargement is needed, etc.etc. I find it interesting now that some of the folks who didn't blink an eye on the understated $205 a month, are having a cow when the county's starting guestimates vary on projects that range between $195 and $250, especially since that $205 was phony to begin with. Hello??

If the final project comes in at or near the $205 AND gives more bang for the buck vis a vis water reuse AND has a plant out of town that offers more future flexibility of all kinds, AND etc. etc. for half the town that supported Tri W and its pretend $205 cost, Uh, What's the problem??

Once again . . . we'll see.

Shark Inlet said...


I remember two years ago when I said that stopping TriW was likely to raise our costs you argued with me saying essentially "we'll see" and suggesting that my cost guesstimates were like "counting angels dancing on the heads of a pin". Essentially you blew off my point by saying "we can't really know" and you are doing the same today.

This is not an issue where we're really flying blind. Certain things are facts: inflation occurs, pollution continues, treatment technology will continue to improve and the RWQCB wants action five years ago to name four unarguable points.

Any discussion of the benefits of one plan versus another must include a reasonable discussion of the likely costs of each plan. That being said, it is not enough to say "well we don't really know yet" when there is good reason to think that costs tend to go up. To do so is to bias the hearer towards a plan which might be considerably more expensive.

While you have a good point, Ann, about the total cost of TriW not being exactly $205, it is certain that there is far less variability in the final actual cost of TriW (under the previous board) than there is in the rough guesstimates in the TAC report. There all bets are off. [And when you consider the amount of time Richard has spent explaining to you again and again about the $205/month, it seems as if your choice of words about how phony that cost is seems ... um ... intentionally misleading.]

I'll say that if the total cost ... including increased water costs because the water companies are being asked to pay for a substantial chunk of the new project ... and including our extra costs at the CSD level to pay for the debts incurred by the CSD after the recall (either real costs or virtual costs by a reduction in services) ... if that total package of costs is about the same as $205/month I'll eat my hat but be happy as a clam doing so.

The numbers in the TAC report show that this is very unlikely.

What's the problem? The recall only won because it promised to lower our costs when moving the plant out of town. If the ultimate costs ends up being considerably higher, will it have been worth it?

As I've asked for some time now, how much more would you be willing to pay to have an out of town plant? $25/month? $50/month? $100/month? I would imagine that many who voted for the recall would not have done so had they been told that the recall would ultimately raise their sewer costs by $50/month.

Sewertoons said...

Ann says regarding Tri-W:
"…no flexibility if enlargement is needed."

Ann, why would enlargement be needed?

Tri-W would support build-out and nothing else. Are you saying that jamming more houses into the urban reserve line of Los Osos is a good idea and that it is something that we should PLAN FOR??

That is the beauty of out of town all right - Ripley's Bahman Shiekh himself said that a town will grow out to the sewer plant. We CAN make Los Osos bigger with more land for a plant out of town!

That's why I never got the hatred towards Tri-W - except in terms of "no sewer." You'd think the plant that would accommodate the build-out and no more would have been embraced by the "no-to slow-growthers," as it was clear we could not skate with no sewer forever.