Ah, at last, a few glimmers of hope for our little Bangladesh by the Bay. Last night was an update on the sewer project, with the usual litany of dates:
2016 begin digging and hooking up laterals, 2017 full costs for the project arrive on your tax bills, the guestimate of which is now $125-175 or more, plus water bills.
However, there should be some grants available for the lateral hook ups. Including up to $7,500 of “free money” If you’re over the age of 62 and qualify as USDA Very Low Income, (1 person-$26,400). So that’s good news for many of our low income seniors.
But the best news as far as I’m concerned is that SLO Green Build and the County have moved the ball farther down the Tank Bank Road, with future plans to partner with the National Estuary Program for grants to make Tank Banking an seriously attractive possibility.
The little handout notes that the “County will be implementing a septic system decommissioning program within the Wastewater Service Area.” And that “the County will notify property owners about lateral connections and septic decommissioning requirements six months prior to hook up. At that time, you will start to decide whether to abandon your septic system (e.g., filling it with dirt) or convert it for an alternative re-use.”
Since 2016 will be coming up very quickly, I hope everyone in town will chooser the latter option. A cleaned, disinfected septic tank is a terrible thing to waste in a community already in water overdraft and in a state that is in serious and chronic drought conditions.
Right now, there are three options: simply fill the empty tank and render it useless for anything, cut holes in the bottom so it can serve as a passive rainwater infiltration sink., or, best of all, convert it into a cistern to hold harvested rainwater to be used for outdoor irrigation.
Imagine what an impact that could have on our community if the majority of our community decided to go with harvesting rainwater. The catch, of course, is both cost and, more important, the need for a focused, coordinated outreach program that will make transforming a septic tank into a water bank both fast, easy, and highly affordable. That means the County really needs to get solidly behind such a program since they have the bureaucratic resources to manage this complicated program.
I say complicated, because while the set up is pretty simple, the timing is a problem. The county has a small window to hook up each home and adding in retrofits at each home could create a real problem. However, if the laws can be changed to widen the retrofit window, and homeowners are fully informed of the options and resources available to them to do the retrofit, this would give homeowners some breathing room to complete the job. Right now the “window” is a matter of months. What would happen if that were expanded to a few years?
The reason why this is critical is because homeowners are going to be hit with considerable hook-up costs and it would be unlikely they would tag on even more money for retrofit on top of it at the same time. However, if they were given a few years to regroup, I suspect more people would sign on. (and if they changed their mind later, they could always backfill the tank.)
But unless the efforts of the County, SLO Green Build and the NEP makes retrofit more cost effective than simple decommissioning and unless the time allowed to complete the retrofits is greatly expanded so as to give homeowners time to get the money together to finish the job, the plan will fail
And that would mean that an extraordinary opportunity will be lost here. In OverdraftVille, in DroughtVille, a clean, empty septic tank is a TERRIBLE thing to waste.
So, stop by our local NEP office over in Morro Bay (upstairs at the Marina Square, across the patio from Windows on the Water) and urge them to really push for clean water grants that can help kick-start this project, get on the mailing list at Green Build (www.slogreenbuild.org, ) so you can keep up with their latest information, and send a note to the Supervisors and to our own CSD and let them know that time is critical on this, and failure really isn’t an option here.
And then take a look at your property and think “cistern,” think “free water all summer,” think “reuse,” think “reduced water bill.”
All of those very good thoughts for Sewerville