Field Trip! Field Trip!
The Planning Commission is planning on a field trip to Monterrey on Friday, June 12th to visit a waste water treatment facility and talk to various farmers using the treated water for their crops. Or, as was briefly muttered/mentioned at the PC meeting yesterday, ”pretending to use the water.” A remark that caused a few ears to perk up and this listener to wonder, Hmm, the County’s setting up this visit, so I wonder just which farmers they will pick to come address the PC—the pretenders or the users?
Well, no matter. The PC is allowing a chance for members of the public who wish to go along to sign up. They’re encouraging seriously interested parties – farmers, official representatives of water/sewer groups, etc – i.e. this is NOT a wine & cheese day outing – to sign up and depending on how many do make reservation will indicate the size of the bus needed . You can call Ramona at Planning at 781-5612 or email her a email@example.com by June 4th. Trip will leave from the BOS at 9ish and return at 6ish.
The next Planning Commission meeting on the sewer DEIR will be another all-day affair on Monday, June 29 and Tuesday June 30 at the BOS chambers.
This go-round was focused on the collection system. Commissioner Wyatt opened by making it clear, with straw-poll head nodding – that the entire board has agreed that the system will be gravity and there is a need for a project, so they’ll not spend time re-hashing any of that, thank you. It was a nice try to alert the audience that their yakking about STEP or STEG or sealed pipes or global warming or leaks or I & I or rising sea water or disturbed archeological sites or dewatering issues for deep gravity pipes or any of that crap would be a waste of time.
However, both Chairman Christie, and Mr. White kept coming back to all of that, asking why STEP was off the County’s table and has been off the county’s table from day one, and etc. while by the end of the meeting, Chairman Christie noted that since the goal of the wastewater plan is to restore the upper aquifer to potable water, then sealed pipes really do matter and so forth. Even Dana Ripley, of Ripley Pacific, added further information with his 2” thick additional info report on “sealed pipe” type collection, especially in high-water areas, areas likely to be under water what with the rising sea levels, areas over or in the upper aquifer so as to avoid both infiltration and exfiltration (ground/sea water getting into the bell and spigot type pipe or waste leaking out, all “leaks” “normal” with that type of pipe.) and so forth. So it’s clear that at least some Commissioners are doing what Ripley suggested: Be aware that the County’s DEIR infiltration numbers may be inappropriate for low lying areas and it’s important that the Commissioners get all the pieces first and then see how they will best fit together overall, rather than pre-selecting something now and then getting locked into it, much as Commissioner Wyatt was suggesting at the beginning of the meeting.
Other information presented:
The old MWH collection plan has been dusted off and is being used. That will result in a collection system that will concentrate sewage at the Tri-W site under a pump station building (looks like a regular house) that was shown as sticking out on the empty south-west end of Tri-W. (Julie Tacker later suggested moving the building next to the library so as to leave that whole stretch open, and Paavo noted that that would work out as well, one of those details that can be refined as the plan moves forward.) There will be lift stations and pocket pump stations located throughout the community (old Tri-W plans), with back up generators (old Tri-W plans) the centrally collected sewage will then run out Los Osos Valley Road to Turri Road, crossing two creeks (stainless steel pipes hung under the bridges with shut off valves on either end & etc, (so much for the old claim that an out of town sitet couldn’t be used because you couldn’t cross a creek with a sewer pipe?). The deepest pipes will be 22 feet deep, at Pismo & 8th, no pipes will be below sea level but a few will be less than 2’ above sea level, an issue that may need closer attention as the Commissioners discussed adopting the newer, more conservative (i.e newer, much worse) projections of global warming sea level rises as being closer to five feet, not two, which may mean having more sealed pipes since those down by the bay will be under the sea within 50 years.
Paavo noted that a lot of the details regarding sealed pipe systems, vacuum, hybrid, etc & seawater will have to be dealt with as part of the value engineering process and/or the design/build process where those issues become part of the conditioned requirements for this process.
And into the Doooo-Deeee-Doooo-Dooo Relm: During public comment, Dave Duggan stood up to ask why the Vacuum System never DID appear on the County’s table. Regular readers of this blog’s comment section will recognize that question, which has been a leitmotif from Mark Low who keeps asking: Why wasn’t the Vacuum System on the table? Well, Mark Hutchinson responded that, well, they did look at that to some degree but thought that since most of the community was “downhill” from somewhere, that using gravity overall made sense and anyway, uh, er, well, the vacuum guys did send some information in but, er, well, they didn’t participate and didn’t show up for consideration of the short list and, well, whoever does win the contract can consider vacuum if they want as part of the design build process or they could choose STEG and grinder pumps or . . . . So, there was Mark’s answer: Was Vacuum on the table? Not really. It was looked at to some degree. (Keep in mind, gravity was pre-selected from day one so things on the table were (really) for show “pretend” things.)
Also interesting in the Vacuum System corner, Commissioner Christie, in her ex-parte disclosure, noted that she heard from Maria Kelley telling her of concerns regarding vacuum systems, i.e. in case of a power outage. Mr. Dugan noted that in a Florida city with vacuum systems during a hurricane, there were no outages and no failure. Oddly, there had been previous discussion regarding the gravity plan’s pump stations all complete with back up generators in case of power outages, so the puzzle was: If the proposed gravity system was using back up generators, why wouldn’t a vacuum system use the same thing? So the puzzle as to Ms. Kelley’s concerns remains and the puzzle regarding vacuum-on-the table issues remain one of those wonderful Sewer Mysteries. Dooo deeee dooo dooo.
Lisa Schicker urged the Commission to condition the project before the county moves the project ahead to such an extent that conditions will all be moot. Several Commissioners assured the audience that they intended to add conditions and Paavo indicated that even if the various regulatory agencies were running behind, whatever design firm gets the contract can always make changes as they’re handed down by the “conditioning” agencies & etc. Of course, the word “changes” and “change orders” always sends shudders up spines of taxpayers as in, “Yes, we did bid for that price but if you must have X it’ll cost you Y more.”
Several speakers repeatedly asked for a side by side evaluation of both environmental and cost breakdowns on sealed, vacuum, STEG, unsealed pipes & etc, so the Commissioners could see the cost-benefit among the various collection systems. (Environmental concerns included the degree of damage between raw sewage leaks vs. septage leaks, for example.) While Linde Owen asked for side by side project comparisons, saying Ripley could do a presentation of their STEP plan in a couple of weeks, she assumed that the Vacuum Folks, (the ones who sent information ?) could prepare a presentation in a few weeks, and the Commission already has the County’s plan, so they could compare/contrast three different systems rather than what’s now being considered which is one system with a few variable parts.
The next PC meetings will be two, back-to-back all day affairs, June 29 & 30, at the BOS chambers, staring by 9. They’ll take up the list again and see how far they’ll get.
Uh, Oh, Ron Crawford’s Asking Questions, Again
Over at www.sewerwatch.blogspot.com Ron’s asking “Why is Montgomery Watson Harza Even Close To Getting A Third Chance To Fail In Los Osos?”
Well, I sure have at least one possible answer to that question: Suppose I hire an architect and tell him, “Build me a house on top of Morro Rock. Cost is NO object.” The architect has two choices: He can say, “Are you nuts? In my professional judgment, that’s a really, really bad idea and while it CAN be done, it will cause all sorts of problems and additional costs. It would be much better to build that house over here or over there. That site will be better and it can be done for about the same amount of money, but it’ll avoid a great big train wreck. Why don’t you ask the community for a vote on the matter. Do they want A or B?,” or he can say, “ Whatever you say, Boss.”
Now, I don’t know if architects have professional codes of ethics that they’re supposed to follow, ones that say that if your client is creating a disaster you MUST (ethically) save the poor soul from himself, or whether you’re under no professional obligations to prevent such harm. Just as I don’t know if engineers have codes of ethics that they’re supposed to follow, either.