Start Yer Sewer Engines, Part II
Comments below from an email from the Sustainability Group, some Los Osos citizens who have been monitoring and commenting on the county project. The County “survey” arrived in my mailbox today, and, as suspected, there are, alas, some critical things missing, like price comparisons between STEP and Gravity. And, of course, no OM&R comparisons, Yet, weirdly, the survey does ask people how much savings a month are they willing to consider to choose STEP without ever being told what STEP would cost in the first place. How is that question anything other than laughable? For example, if we had real-world costs between STEP & Gravity, including OM&R, costs that included some ball-park figures each homeowner could use to figure out if they would incur hi, med or low installation costs, then a valid question would be, “A STEP/STEG System would have to save me at least XXX $ a month to make it worthwhile.” But without that original price comparison, (plus some pretty good guestimates for installation costs) the question is utterly silly.
And for sheer weirdness, there’s a question asking what locations for the treatment facility site folks want and there, at the top of the list of choices, is “mid-town: aka Tri-W site” even though all the reports made it clear the county had no intention of putting the treatment plant there, that Tri-W came in dead last on the TAC report and Dr. T’s report, yet there it is. (Note that the Turri Road side or Pismo St. site and other sites aren’t listed at all.) So why is that proposed site there, except to serve as some sort of political CYA security blankie? Very strange.
Wait, it gets better. This survey asks residents for their income. You mean to tell me the County is close to building this massive public works project, has already made it clear which type of system they’ll pick and yet doesn’t already know the income levels in this town?
Then, the next question asks residence owners if they plan to apply for financial assistance for low or fixed income households without giving any kind of indication what constitutes “low or fixed income.” I could be on a “fixed” income of $10,000 a month. Would I qualify for financial assistance?
And, of course, there’s always the ever-present problem: If you present a choice between A or B and, uh, forget to mention C and folks vote for A or B, then later find out that C was always available, then what’s the problem? They had a vote, they had a choice and if it wasn’t C, so what? It was a vote.
And so it goes. Well, if you’ve been watching the Sewer Wars for a few years now, you know that this survey is primarily designed as a CYA measure. The Process must not only be done, but The Process must be SEEN to be done so that no challenges to The Process can be made. Even if a project has been already quasi, pre-selected (wink nudge), for a variety of reasons, (and, remember, Dr. T’s group noted that both gravity and STEP/SEG systems are equally viable, with the only differences being in the various Devils in the Details and the price) all the steps to this dance must be completed in proper order, whether really needed or not, because once every step is completed, The Process cannot be challenged, in court or out. If it is, a challenge, whether legal or political, can be easily quashed by pointing to the documentation of The Process -- reams of paper, taped meetings, written responses, brochures, questionaires – all the proper steps done in the proper order.
Well, the Sustainability Group (below) has some questions and opinions. I understand there will be a sewer review, presentation before the planning commission this Thursday, (?) (later post: still trying to track this down, may be on another date?, so don't show up until you check w/county), so anyone interested can attend and learn more, and I hope everyone will take the time to fill out this form and/or add any questions or comments of their own.
This will be the only chance the people of this community can speak now or forever hold their peace. After all, the folks who supported the recall and opposed Tri-W asked for three things: an “affordable” sewer system (i.e. cheaper than Tri-W), a treatment plant out of town, and a “vote”/ voice/choice in which system they wanted to buy. It’s that last option that is tricky. In a game of spin, fudge, omit, manipulate, nudge, overlook, garbage in/ garbage out, if they don’t pay close attention, their “choice” will be made for them, and if they’re not happy with that “choice,” too bad. It’ll be too late and they’ll get the bill.
But, at the end of the day, no matter how it plays out, the people of this community will end up with two out of the three requests, and if they’re really, really lucky, they might get close to the third. Two out of three? Not bad.
Meantime, the Office Pool is still on, only this time I think the only interesting number to wager on is this: What percentage of the community won’t even bother to return their survey?
From the Sustainability Group:
Los Osos' Affordable and Sustainable Options
Los Osos can have an affordable, proven, "shovel ready" waste water project right now. We can have a project which keeps people in their homes, (the EPA guidelines state that waste water costs should not exceed 2% of the median house hold income, that's about $80 per month for us), provides clean drinking water, recharges our aquifers, stops salt water intrusion and protects the bay. For a winning system, the Los Osos Sustainability Group recommends:
(70% of the project cost)
Choose anything other than gravity collection. Gravity collection involves digging trenches in the middle of the street which need to be shored up and de-watered. This takes time and money as the trench water must be cleaned before it can be disposed of. Gravity pipes are large and laid deep in the ground,(6 to 20 feet). These unsealed pipes inherently leak sewage, polluting our ground water. This system will require a dozen, energy intensive, lift stations each with it's own back up generator. Gravity's large pipes require constant maintenance in order to avoid clogs which cause spills. Cayucos, Pismo and San Luis Obispo's gravity collection systems have all spilled sewage in the past month and the CMC was recently fined again by the Water Board for their various problems.
Other technologies, Vacuum and STEP/STEG, are sealed, small diameter pipe systems, installed by horizontal boring along the side of the street at a depth of about 4 feet, (think arthroscopic surgery vs. traditional cutting). This is not only less expensive and less invasive, but in case of an earthquake, ruptures are less likely and much easier to repair, (After the Northridge earthquake it took 14 years to fix their gravity system.). Vacuum and STEP/STEG do not inherently leak, so they are protective of our groundwater. STEP/STEG, in the LOCSD's 2006 report, was estimated to be $100 less per month than the County's current Gravity projections. Comparable Vacuum collection projects have been built for even less than these STEP/STEG estimates.
Nature-based Nelson Air Diffusion System (ADS) or ECOFluid. Why choose one of these? Both systems utilize limited acreage, are low energy users, treat waste water to the highest quality,(tertiary), naturally and produce minimal sludge. Their cost is one half to one third of the secondary treatment the County is proposing. The County's options also produce large amounts of sludge which is a bio hazard. The County is suggesting we purchase more than 600 acres of prime agriculture land to accommodate their inferior system when ADS or ECOFluid would require a fraction of the resources while providing more benefits at a greatly reduced cost to the homeowner.
Out of town - Branin, Giacomazzi, or Cemetery. Tonini is outside of our water basin and may cause urban sprawl on LOVR.
A strong conservation element and agricultural exchange is a must. Using less water means the waste water treatment facility can be smaller. Conservation will help stop salt water intrusion, preserving the aquifers, and provide us with drinking water indefinitely. Twenty five percent conservation can be achieved using common high efficiency appliances, bought, installed and paid for through the project. Agricultural exchange means that instead of the farmers pumping our drinking water and using fertilizers to grow their crops, they will use our treated water. The bacteria in farm soil filter contaminants in ways that our sandy leach fields can't. Salinas implemented a similar program. They too had a water issues including salt water intrusion. Now their problems are solved because they utilized a holistic, integrated, sustainable approach. It is even Central Coast Water Board approved!
What's Wrong with the County's Plan:
Hybrid gravity is 95% conventional big pipe system and only 5% Vacuum collection. Bio-lac and oxidation ditches are expensive, large, mechanical energy users, producing unwanted sludge. Spray fields throw away water. Broderson means very limited basin recharge, possible liquefaction conditions and re-introduction of endocrine disputers, (Putting sewer effluent into your potable water source is a health hazard and the California PTA has a resolution against these bio accumulative toxins). The County's conservation element is very limited, only partially paid for by the project and will not solve our salt water intrusion issues. This "Environmentally Preferred" system is least sustainable for our community, economy, environment and comes with the biggest price tag.
Los Osos can have an affordable, environmentally friendly, sustainable waste water project. Choose one of the Los Osos Sustainability Group recommendations. If you don't see it on the survey ballot, please write it in.
More Sewerish Comments:
Aaron Ochs has some comments on the recent Bill Garfinkle Viewpoint in the Tribune over at Ochs Nation at http://www.ochsnation.blogspot.com/.
Your Sunday Poem
by Andrea Cohen, from her new collection of poems, “Long Division.”
In A Haystack
A needle must feel
deeply needled, ill-
suited to its skin,
to leave its arrow-
into a haystack,
to mean to lose
or find itself
in that soft
tangle, to fill
its one good eye
with the gold
filament of pasture,
to the weary,
supper to bell-necklaced goats.
A needle like that?
It would be