What’s in a Name?
The following email from Tom Murphy of AES [“Reclamator”] raises the exact question that’s still rattling around in my head because I am still puzzled by the RWQCB’s “no discharge in the PZ” ruling under 83-13. The Board has spent nearly two years jerking The Los Osos 45 around, issued CDOs or CAOs on their homes, and brought real damage to real people by claiming that these folks are guilty of “discharging” within the PZ. (along with everyone else in the PZ who don’t have home-threatening CDO’s on their homes and who haven’t been jerked around for two years, despite Chairman Young’s blandishments that he was going to be fair and consistent and treat everyone equally. Bwahahahaha.)
The Staff and RWQCB have made it clear (wink-nudge) that NO ONSITE SYSTEMS will be allowed in the PZ because onsite systems “discharge” and there will be no “discharges” allowed in the PZ. Only a community-wide 100% collection and treatment system will be allowed. (Yes, I know, the RWQCB is forbidden by law to specify any particular system. Bwa-hahahah, they’ve been playing that Hobson’s Choice game for years.) However, here’s where it gets weird to me: The RWQCB issued a “discharge permit” to “discharge” treated “waste”water from the Tri-W plant and “discharge” the gazillions of gallons of treated “waste”water back into the PZ, back into the waters of the state of California, back into an impaired body of water. They didn’t issue a “recharge” permit, but a “discharge” permit. They set a nitrate and other pollutant numbers that they deemed were o.k. to “discharge” and since Tri-W met that number, it was given a “discharge” permit.
But onsite systems that meet that same number will NOT be given “discharge” permits?
Why not? If “discharge” is good for the goose, why not for the gander?
True, there can be real problems with individual onsites vis a vis compliance, monitoring, access, control, testing & etc. If that’s the real concern, then the RWQCB needs to make that clear. If, as others have suggested, onsites don’t solve the high-ground-water problems, then the RWQCB should make that clear also. If a hybrid community system of collection for low lying areas and onsites or cluster onsites for higher areas would solve the basin loading, then the RWQCB should make that clear as well. Then the all important issue of cost and community choice– not definitions of “discharge”-- would come into play.
As it stands now, we’re still in Alice in Wonderland’s world of meaningless definitions and counter-definitions. How is a raven like a writing desk? And if definitions aren’t correctly defined, how will the county be able to give all the technologies a fair evaluation during the due diligence phase of evaluation? After all, if you pre-define something incorrectly and toss it out on the basis of that incorrect definition, you’ve crippled yourself unnecessarily as to choices. Sort of like saying, without any evidence, “All cars that are NOT red, are ‘bad’.” Then you go ahead and buy a red car and then pretend that the red car you selected is the best car available.
As Gail McPherson notes in another email, again going to “definitions,”
“Septic tank discharge is NOT pollution unless it "pollutes." If the discharge is treated in the soils, does not reach the groundwater, and has a positive effect as a nutrient, it is not pollution. The water board says there is simply too many septic tanks for the receiving environment to handle, and the ground water, designated for drinking water supplies, is being affected by a build up of nitrates. Any water that is used and discharged to the environment from a point source that does not support the "designated beneficial uses" violates the CWA-and discharge permits. Individual Septic tanks are not permitted as point sources.
Distilled water by your definition is "pure" and "pollution free" but if discharged to a stream in certain places it would violate the CWA-and State standards...as it would not support the beneficial uses in some streams -(fisheries) and in places soft water-"aggressive water" actually strips metals from the environment that become toxic.
Bottom line is “ [. . . . no statute can force the Reclamator on Los Osos. . . . “] “[AES ] can sell it based on it meeting the needs and Waste Discharge Requirements the water board has set. The Reclamator can compete to be selected as the best value technology. Tom can even privatize the system and possibly sell the water, but the process is to present a proposal for a community or County decision. "
Mr. Murphy’s email:
I would be glad to help you to clarify the meanings and definitions of “Waste” and “Discharge” are one-in-the-same. Both mean the exact same thing. Waste IS Discharge and Discharge IS Waste. The “definition” of either will serve as the definition for the other.
FYI “Discharge” is defined in US Code, Title 33, Chapter 26 as “discharge of a pollutant” (waste) or “discharge of pollutants”. Discharge of waste means discharge of pollutants and the US Code requires application of technology which will eliminate the discharge of pollutants as it is the “national goal” and the RECLAMATOR has achieved this “national goal” and no other technology has. Therefore, based on performance, the US Code requires it to be specified by “name brand or equal” based on the criteria defined within the same US Code.
Per California Water Code Sec. 13050 states “Recycled water” is a “valuable resource”, not a “discharge of waste”. Waste has no value, recycled water does have value and recycled water doesn’t even have to meet MCLG treated drinking water standards. The RECLAMATOR does, now you tell me if the RECLAMATOR discharges “waste”. “Waste” is a word of specific “definition within the wastewater industry. It is very cut and dried; it’s about “value”. Does the recycled water qualify to serve as a “beneficial” application, or is it a “waste” which is only qualified to be “disposed of”? If the “effluent” still contains a total nitrogen level of greater than 10 parts per million (ppm), which would be a “secondary treatment level”, it can still qualify as a valuable resource and can be used in an irrigation application which needs the nutrients, this is the case for many golf courses, parks, green strips, etc. However, US Code allows such a beneficial reuse application only if advanced innovative technology isn’t available which can “eliminate the discharge of pollutants” at the source, which is the “national goal”. The RECLAMATOR achieves the “national goal”.
Any effluent which has had the total nitrogen (TN) to less than 10 parts per million qualifies as a “recycled water” and as such will serve as a “beneficial” use if nothing more than allowing it to continue into a drain field and serve the beneficial application of “indirect potable reuse”. All other conventional pollutants, i.e. colloids, viruses, fecal, disease carrying pathogens, etc., are all removed with only inches of soil. Nitrogen is the only pollutant which requires a biological process to be removed to become a “valuable resource” and also is recognized in the US Code, Title 33, Chapter 26, Sec. 1300 as a “sustainable alternative water source” which qualifies for federal grant assistance to cover up to 75% of the construction cost of installation of such technology, referred to in C26 as “best available technology” (other than publicly owned treatment works)
What more need I say?
D. Thomas Murphy,
AES Central Coast Discharge Elimination Company, LLC.
Advanced Environmental Systems, Inc.
RECLAMATOR, “The Future of Water”
And so the war of words continues, but I would repeat McPherson’s observation that “ . . . . the process is to present a proposal for a community or County decision.”
That, of course, will be the final “court,” – community and County – providing the Process remains clean and on track.
The Insider Exclusive interview with PZLDF & producer Steve Murphy (no relation to Mr. Murphy above) will be playing on Channel 2 on the following dates and times, for those interested in seeing it:
Here's the play dates for Insider Exclusive on ch. 2.
Thursday 12/13 9:30 pm
Saturday 12/15 9:30 pm
Monday 12/17 9:30 pm
Tuesday 12/18 2 pm