Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Put Down That Bucket & Step Away From The Mop

According to the Dec 3 Tribune story, on January 15, the BOS will vote on a plan that would put a county-wide ban on letting any “impure” substances go down gutters, hence into stormwater drains and hence via the various storm drain systems into creeks or out to sea. “Only pure rainwater would be acceptable,” notes the Trib.

The story also notes, “supervisor Bruce Gibson acknowledged that the ordinance would ‘impose significant burdens on the community as a whole,’ but he said the community wants clean water.

“Still, not everyone was sanguine about the ordinance.

“The ordinance could make criminals out of ordinary citizens because ‘it’s impossible for people to comply with,’ said Charlie Whitney, chairman of the Santa Margarita Area Advisory Council.”

I applaud the general point of the Ordinance and any education efforts the County is making. State-wide, we’ve all got to start impounding our “used” water, including storm run-off. But the story prompted me to send a quasi-serious email inquiry to Mr. Gibson & the BOS, since the Devil, as ever, is always in the details. And ordinances often have the weird effect of backfiring if they get too silly. I mean, do the residents of my beloved mostly gutterless and storm-drainless Bangladesh By The Bay want to be required to go get a “discharge” permit from Roger Briggs if they want to toss a mop bucket of vinegar-water out on the coyote bushes? And, besides wasting water (unless it’s running off into dirt to water the coyote bushes or nasturtiums), what’s the difference (pollution-wise) between washing dust off a car with a garden hose and having rain wash the same dust off a car? Detergent down a paved driveway, to a gutter, into a storm drain and then out to sea, I can understand. But if you park your car on your lawn and hose the dust off, will the Stormwater Storm Troops come give you a ticket?

My email inquiry:

Am curious if the proposed Stormwater Pollution Prevention and Discharge Control Ordinance covers folks who live on a dirt road unconnected to any storm drain, with a dirt driveway, also unconnected to any storm drain. When I rinse my car off, for example, the water runs into the sandy soil and waters the native vegetation next to what passes for a driveway. Same thing happens when I toss out my bucket of dirty mop water. It runs into the sandy soil and waters the coyote bush. (Living with dogs, I don't clean with any harsh chemicals, only vinegar or baking soda or other natural ingredients)

Will both actions -- rinsing a car and/or tossing out mop water -- now make me a criminal if the ordinance passes?

I certainly support something for folks who live on organized , paved streets with storm drains, since the idea state-wide is to "impound" water on the land and hence keep it out of the creeks and oceans. Which, come to think of it, is exactly what I'm doing now with my mop bucket.

Since any run-off ordinance has real practical value for developed, organized, paved/storm-drained cities & etc, I hope the ordinance will also consider us folks living in, uh, undeveloped parts of the county as well. (Oh, and Please don't try to tell me my bucket of mop water will be polluting the waters of the State of California if I pour it on the coyote bush in the yard. Even the RWQCB couldn't make up enough phony numbers to make that claim hold water.)

Thank you.

A PostScript to the Insider Exclusive posting

Got the following comment from an Anonymice who was having trouble logging onto the blogsite for comment. (anybody else having trouble, too?) This comment responds to several posters chuffingly demanding that “their side” or “the other side” (whatever that means) should have been presented by Mr. Murphy in his video spot. This commenter raises some interesting points.

I have long held that the PZ and Basin Plan should have been updated YEARS ago, especially with more and better information coming in on the water issues due to more complete testing of the groundwater by Cleath & Assoc, & etc. A better basin plan would have given the County more flexibility in dealing with overall problems instead of being stuck with this appallingly inadequate PZ, which, near as I can see, has caused nothing BUT problems.

I have also maintained and still maintain, that selecting 45 happless people to single out for 18 months or more of hammering and harassing was a wrong-headed, appallingly stupid blunder done in a panic, a knee-jerk reaction that was not thought through, has done nothing but waste time and resources while making the Water Board look like bungling nincompoops, and, worst of all, it has not helped clean up one drop of water, but has, instead, hindered and distracted everyone. (If the Board had, for example, simply helped the CSD enforce 83=12 in a coherent, organized fashion after the recall election was certified, how many septics would already be pumped, inspected and repaired by now? Many people were already voluntarily doing that at the time. How many old, poorly running systems would by now be upgraded? What overall impact would that have had on overall “Water Quality?” Compare that with what we ended up with – Zero upgrades and instead, an eighteen-month Mad Hatter Tea Party triggering a defensive lawsuit to protect due process rights that just eats up even more money and time. Water: 0 Taxpayer paid state Lawyers and Staff time: Anybody want to count it all up?)

Anyway, the comment:

“[ various commentors] . . . want to have a chance to represent the other side of the Lawsuit to Mr Murphy, however the other side of the lawsuit would be THE WATER BOARD.

The basin plan, the PZ and 83-13 were always required to be scientifically sound when the amendment it was first approved, and according to the SWRCB and Cal-EPA this process was never completed. The PZ can be easily adjusted or confirmed concurrent to the project development. The intent is NOT to stop or even slow a project, but is to define a project scope by updating and making compliant the 23 year old resolution, and affirming the basin plan. That is actually the method the SWRCB and Federal EPA advises. The solutions group tried to make adjustments, but had no authority to legally open the basin plan to force this. The individual enforcement provides that legal challenge.

In fact, most new sewer projects are defined with science as part of the engineers project scope. By that I mean a scoping report that verifies all those reported studies etc. in the pre-design effort. That is the phase we are in NOW. That is NOT part of the lawsuit, but it is a win-win for the Water board to back off and get into a cooperative arrangement to verify the areas for improvement. It stops nothing, and in fact strengthens the basis for the vote, the project, and the outcome.

Rather than continue to violate the civil rights of individuals, the trust of the greater regulated community, and waste taxpayers funds on prosecution, the regulators can shift gears and put a enforceable work plan together.

Isn't it time for uniting and constructive efforts?

The lawsuit is defensive and an appeal is the only remedy available to protect individuals, property values, and shield against possible future fines.
Everyone will be held responsible for any obstruction to the project. Isn't it safer to support shielding your property from fines?

The project has a better chance of moving forward if the enforcement pressure is based on a county work plan that corrects issues of contention and corrects past mistakes, and lifts enforcement off the backs of a handful of vocal individual examples, which has proven to be counter productive.”

Speaking of Which

Mark your calendars. The county will be holding “A public scoping meeting for the Los Osos Wastewater project’s Environmental Impact Report” Tuesday, December 18, 2007 at 7:00 – 9:00 PM at the South Bay Community Center, located at 2180 Palisades Ave. . . . The open-house format meeting will be open to all interested parties and provide an opportunity for input relating to the scope and content of the Environmental Impact Report. Any questions regarding the meeting. Contact mark Hutchinson, Environmental Programs Manager, at (805) 781-5252.”


Mike Green said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shark Inlet said...

On the stormwater question .... I would think that only the parts of Los Osos with gutters and storm drains would need to change their car-washing patterns. Also, those who would simply drive onto the lawn first should be just fine ... unless there is run-off into the storm drain. However, because that isn't a stormwater issue, the RWQCB would make the rules, not the County.

I find it interesting that both age and politics seem to play a role in what one would consider reasonable. The older and more conservative among us tend to be more likely to adopt an "I've always done it one way, why should I change now" attitude. I guess Ann must be a bit conservative because she certainly isn't older by any stretch of imagination.

More seriously ...

Let's talk about Murphy's show a bit. It seems pretty obvious to me that the show was very one sided. This doesn't bother me so much. Presumably if Murphy is a journalist interested in presenting the full story he can follow up with others who have good information and get back to us with a follow-up that gives Matt Thompson and Paavo an opportunity to respond to some pretty baseless charges from Gail and others. I would have hoped that Murphy would have valued the truth enough to do that sort of research in advance and to ask some challenging questions of his guests, but perhaps his show doesn't allow him the flexibility to do that as easily as we might imagine. Either that or he is just sloppy or he prefers to allow his guests to present their point of view unquestioned ... more of an infomercial than an interview.

No matter, that is Murphy's choice.

What would bother me, however, is if there was some behind-the-scenes stuff going on that we don't know about. For example, if BWS is one of the firms that pays for Murphy's show simply asked for the Los Osos issue to be presented, Julie Biggs to be one of the guests and the PZLDF case to be highlighted, the show certainly should not be presented as Murphy wanted to highlight civil rights and found the Los Osos story.

My question then really is for Murphy and Julie Biggs ... how is it that this webisode of the show came into being? How did Murphy get the idea? Was there any pressure that only one side of the story should be presented, that Gail and Robyn's charges be unchallenged?

If one take's Gail's charges of behind-the-scenes deals in the wastewater industry seriously (and they are serious charges) why is no one asking questions about behind-the-scenes deals in the legal industry?

I've asked Murphy about how he got the idea for the Los Osos story and whether anyone who underwrites his show encouraged it. Considering the speed with which his first few replies arrived, I suspect he might be out of the office now because I've gotten no response to this query.

I would invite Julie Biggs also to comment here or to reply to me ( if she would like. I will get back to you with any information they provide.

Please remember, I am not accusing people here of doing anything underhanded. I just think that if BWS did call the shots on this episode, we have a right to know just like if there is any deal between Paavo and MWH we have a right to know.

Churadogs said...

Inlet sez:"I find it interesting that both age and politics seem to play a role in what one would consider reasonable. The older and more conservative among us tend to be more likely to adopt an "I've always done it one way, why should I change now" attitude. I guess Ann must be a bit conservative because she certainly isn't older by any stretch of imagination."

You seem to have missed my point. It has nothing to do with doing something one way or the other, it had to do with the Devil always being in the details. When writing ordinances, if you concentrate on the flea, you often cause the elephant to founder. The whole idea of impoundment is an enormous elephant. It's important that the thrust go towards the big picture and not get distracted by the small stuff, most of which can be handled by education and a changing public awareness. Consider how much total pollution is caused by people washing cars in driveways versus the first rain-flush off all public highways and streets, all of which now go down storm drains. Solve the impoundment on land of that first rain-flush first, (a huge public works project) then you can go arrest people with mops and buckets.

Inlet sez:"I've asked Murphy about how he got the idea for the Los Osos story and whether anyone who underwrites his show encouraged it. "

I hope he replies. In the meantime, How's this for a scenario: Murphy's putting together a series on contemporary civil rights cases he thinks will interest his audience, "googles" (I use the term generically) current cases on file in the U.S. (and/or maybe California, since this was taped in L.A.?) spots Sullivan's PZLDF case in the search, contacts PZLDF, (among many other cases that popped up, apparently he contacted other cases as well) who contacts him back to outline the case; Murphy's interested so asks PZLDF if they want to get to L.A. for a taping, they hastily call some of the clients, put together a group who race to L.A. for the taping. During the same day, I have been told by folks who were there in the wee hours of the morning, they're also taping other "civil rights" cases Murphy found interesting. (sorta like they tape one game show after another, even though they'll play on TV a day or a week apart.) The focus of this particular series was on civil rights, process abuse, rights violations & etc., the other groups were given their 28 min to put their case together and present it. Julie Biggs volunteered her time to show up to give a little background. & etc.

Of course, to the Paranoid, all of the above will be nothing but lies, everyone involved will be liars, all kinds of secret, speculative, hidden scenarios can be cooked up and posted here, Ooooo, oooooo, signal jamming will bloom into a huge Blaaattt, and the bare bones of Murphy's 28 minute case will be quickly forgotten -- that is, Have the Los Osos 45 had their civil rights, their constitutional rights and their property rights and their due process rights violated by the RWQCB's CDO/CAO process, a process I've called The Mad Hatter Tea Party & Auto de Fe Public Hanging "Trials.?"

That remains the important question.

Inlet also sez:"Robyn's charges be unchallenged?"

Do you have any evidence that Robyn's a liar concerning what converstations went on during the negotiations that weren't -heh-heh-- negotiations or what she said was said on the phone between Blakeslee & Polhemus? or Blakeslee and the SWB staff & etc.concerning the "compromise" that first was then -- ta-da! -- wasn't? Do you have any evidence that those were lies she was just making up for the camera?

If they weren't lies, then somebody has a whole lot of 'splainin' to do, methinks.

Shark Inlet said...


Your hypothetical explanation of how the story came to Murphy and then onto his show is plausible ... but to me the one-sidedness of the story makes me think that someone asked for the story. If that is not the case, Murphy is just plain sloppy and I have trouble believing that someone with the awards the PZLDF press release listed would be that sloppy.

It would be nice if Murphy or Biggs would simply clarify the situation. The question I have is this ... if there is some under-the-table deal going on here it would make good sense for neither to fess up, so how should we take silence from them? I would suggest that neither replying to me would mean little. But I would also suggest that the value to PZLDF of this interview is immense if Murphy was not asked to do the story and to give a one-sided account of the situation. Essentially I am saying that if Gail can get a statement from Murphy and/or Biggs that BWS doesn't sponsor the show in any way or that no one from BWS suggested this topic, people would look on this show as something more than an infomercial.

If people have openly questioned the legitimacy of this show, I would think that between Murphy, Biggs and McPherson, at least one of them would want to come forward with some sort of "there was no underhanded deal here" statement. Wouldn't you agree that with such a statement, all these questions would be put to rest?

About Hayhurst's charges. I am not saying she is lying. I have no evidence that she is. I do know that her story just plain doesn't match up with that of Darrin Polhemus when he testified to the issue during the ACL hearings. The problem here is that Hayhurst says the SWRCB rescinded their compromise offer (they didn't, they made a counter-offer with a small change) and she said the reason they made this change is because they realized their earlier SRF contract was illegal (which, even if true, she wouldn't know their motivation).

Simply put, there were many such statements in the show ... things that were said as if they were factual when they are at best an interpretation. Folks with at least as much knowledge who have a markedly different interpretation (like Paavo, Darrin, Buel, Blakeslee, etc.) were not contacted to present their point of view. This was a PZLDF-fest. Like I wrote earlier, there was nothing on that show that they couldn't have presented better ... it was almost as if they got to write the questions for Murphy.

Mike Green said...

I asked Sam on the Dave Congelton show to explain why the negotiations failed (It's in the archives)

He said it was mostly due to inflexible egos, plain and simple

I guess that was the "motivation"

Shark Inlet said...

Mike Green,

Thanks for that insight.

I remember feeling rather hopeful at the results of the negotiations ... the LOCSD was willing to be flexible by restarting TriW if out of town didn't pan out within a limited time frame and the SWRCB was willing to be flexible by continuing to finance a LOCSD project even if it wasn't the same one they had originally funded.

The sticking point was that the SWRCB wanted a 218 vote to secure their unsecured loan and they wanted the LOCSD to take out a bridge loan to cover what had already been borrowed so that way their $6.5M would be secured. The LOCSD balked saying something about "we don't have the money" which is pretty ironic because shortly following that they ended up paying BWS and Ripley far more than the amount of the bridge loan. What can we conclude? While there may have been ego issues and iflexibility on the SWRCB staff side, the LOCSD certainly was rather quick to give up on the negotiations. They didn't even go back to the state with a counter-offer. They just said "no thanks" when the state gave them a way to pursue the out-of-town sewer on the state dime. Why?

Sewertoons said...

I just don't get why the attorney that represents the case for PZLDF, Shaunna Sullivan was NOT on camera, but Mrs. Biggs was. A conflicting dentist's appointment would hardly be the reason.

Since Ann is so willing to post "news" releases or write nice things about Gail, the answers to all of these questions regarding the show should easily find a way on to this blog.

Mike said...

Did Gail sue and settle for a large (approx $4M) discrimination suit against a SoCal city/county prior to moving to Los Osos...???

Sewertoons said...

There was a federal lawsuit about discrimination against her (and others) from workers in the WWTF she ran. I haven't found the $$$$ outcome of it if there is one. This suit was filed against the city of Riverside.

Then she filed two claims against Riverside arguing that they should pay her for $40,000 of her $49,000 legal defense on her no contest of falsifying records. The city denied the request.

That is all I have found on her with 4's.

Sewertoons said...

shark says:
"They just said "no thanks" when the state gave them a way to pursue the out-of-town sewer on the state dime. Why?"

No sewer is the best sewer?

Churadogs said...

Inlet sez:"Your hypothetical explanation of how the story came to Murphy and then onto his show is plausible ... "

What makes you think my explanation is hypothetical? What if it's what actually happened?

Shark Inlet said...

Why hypothetical?

You told us that you don't know how Murphy selected the story but maybe he was googling civil rights issues. Sounds to me as if you were telling us a hypothetical.

Did you mean to tell us you know how Murphy hit on the story? If so, why haven't you told us this?