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Santa Rosa wastewater plant releases treated sewage following deluge

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Overwhelmed by record rainfall this week, Santa Rosa’s regional wastewater treatment plant has released about 22 million gallons of treated sewage into two creeks and the Laguna de Santa Rosa since Wednesday, and the discharge will continue indefinitely with another storm on the way, officials said Friday.

All three waterways drain into the Russian River.

It was further evidence that the deluge, which swamped Russian River communities and displaced thousands of residents this week, had far-reaching impact.

The releases began Wednesday, a day after Santa Rosa received 5.66 inches of rain, a record for one-day precipitation dating back to 1902.

It took about a day for the added volume of sewage mixed with runoff to reach the plant on Llano Road, which treats wastewater from about 230,000 customers in Santa Rosa, Sebastopol, Cotati and Rohnert Park.

The record-breaking rain from an atmospheric river that stalled over Sonoma County “put a total strain on the system,” said Emma Walton, interim director of Santa Rosa Water.

Santa Rosa’s was at least the second municipal treatment plant overwhelmed or knocked out by this week’s storm. Healdsburg earlier this week declared an emergency stemming from problems at its own flooded facility.

Rainwater seeping into Santa Rosa’s far-flung sewage collection system boosted the flow arriving at the plant to as much as 105 million gallons a day this week, the largest flow ever recorded.

Normal wintertime inflow is 19 million gallons per day, city spokeswoman Adriane Mertens said.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/9339767-181/santa-rosa-wastewater-plant-releases

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Graton may be next stop for Occidental wastewater 

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The plan will be informally introduced at a town hall meeting held by west county Supervisor Lynda Hopkins in April or early May, officials said.

Guerneville is out and Graton is now in as a potential destination for Occidental’s wastewater.
What may sound like west county musical chairs is actually the latest chapter in a 20-year effort to find an alternative for Occidental’s wastewater treatment plant, which has been under state orders since 1997 to quit discharging treated effluent into Dutch Bill Creek, a Russian River tributary and coho salmon spawning stream.
A plan to send five to 15 truckloads of untreated wastewater a day up Bohemian Highway to Guerneville was scrapped in response to protests from Guerneville residents, and officials are now considering delivery to Graton, where the local community services district has issued what amounts to an invitation.
“We’re taking a look at what might be a better option,” said Ann DuBay of the Sonoma County Water Agency, which operates the Occidental and Guerneville treatment systems and six others in the county.
Engineers are working out the details of the Occidental-to-Graton transfer between two small, rural communities, with a recommendation expected to go to the Board of Supervisors in the fall, said Cordel Stillman, the Water Agency’s deputy chief engineer.
Read more at: Graton may be next stop for Occidental wastewater | The Press Democrat

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River residents castigate county over Occidental sewage trucking

Frank Robertson, SONOMA WEST TIMES & NEWS

Public comment on the project’s environmental document, called the Initial Study and Negative Declaration, will be accepted through this Friday, Feb. 24, said Sonoma County Water Agency spokeswoman Ann DuBay. After the deadline, water agency staffers will look at the comments and determine whether the environmental review has been adequate or needs more work. “It could take a few months” before the environmental review is complete, said DuBay.

A full house of concerned river residents admonished the Sonoma County Water Agency last week over plans to truck the town of Occidental’s sewage to Guerneville for treatment and disposal.Her neighborhood is “prepared to do anything necessary to stop this absurd idea,” said Guerneville resident Susan Packer, who owns vacation rental property adjacent to the transfer site.
With Occidental’s sewage set to be trucked daily to a pumping station on Riverside Drive, where ongoing problems include odors and recent collection system overflows during Russian River flooding, “you certainly can’t handle any increase,” in sewage coming into the pump station, said Packer.Neighbors organized as the West Guernewood Action Group agree the transfer project is “incompatible and ill-considered” and are talking to an attorney, Noreen Evans, to represent them in opposition to the project, said Packer.
The united crowd of more than 100 people packed into the Monte Rio Community Center last week had little good to say about the project that would help the town of Occidental meet a state-imposed deadline to bring its sewage disposal methods up to code and avoid fines that could hit $10,000 per day. Occidental’s compliance deadline is Jan 1., 2018, said Sonoma County Water Agency Deputy Chief Engineer Cordel Stillman.
“We know there are some issues” with trucking the town’s sewage to Guernewood Park, where it would then be piped under the Russian River to the Russian River Sanitation District’s sewage treatment plant on Neeley Road, said Stillman at last week’s public hearing hosted by the water agency. The trucking project was hammered out during talks in Occidental last year when Occidental residents rejected a water recycling plan there because of the prohibitive cost.
Trucking the sewage to Guerneville was seen as a stopgap measure that would give Occidental ”breathing room” until a more permanent solution is found, said Stillman.
The meeting in the Monte Rio Community Center was the first real public forum for river residents to weigh in on the transfer plan that was hatched last year as a way to solve Occidental’s inability to find an affordable sewage disposal plan so that the town’s wastewater does not pollute Dutch Bill Creek.
Read more at: River rats castigate county over Occidental sewage trucking | News | sonomawest.com

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Heavy rains cause Sonoma Valley wastewater overflows

Sonoma County Water Agency, SONOMA COUNTY GAZETTE
Heavy rainfall from a large atmospheric river resulted in several wastewater overflows within the Sonoma Valley County Sanitation District (District). Nearly 2 inches of rain was measured during a 24-hour period ending Tuesday at 9 a.m. at the Sonoma Valley wastewater treatment plant. Other areas of the valley reported 3 inches of rain overnight.
Wastewater maintenance and work crews, including biologists, responded to nine separate sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs) starting at 2:30 a.m. Tuesday. Sanitation District staff are working to minimize the flows as much as possible, evaluate any impacts to public and environmental health, and will continue to monitor the collection systems.  The State Office of Emergency Services and California Department of Fish & Wildlife were notified.
The majority of the SSOs occurred in the Boyes Hot Springs and Fetters Hot Springs areas, with two overflows in Eldridge. Several of the overflows resulted in wastewater flowing into Sonoma Creek. One reported SSO at the Sonoma Charter School and Flowery Elementary School campus was determined to be a private overflow resulting from a failure of the collection system on school district property. Total volume of the overflows will be calculated at the end of the storm event.
During heavy rain events the District’s wastewater collection system can become overloaded due to inflow and infiltration of rainwater and groundwater into sewer mains. The District is currently implementing a multi-year sewer main replacement project. Another contributing factor to SSOs, which is being addressed by the District, is leaky private sewer laterals and illegal connections of roof downspouts, yard drains, sump pumps and other non-sewer discharges into the sewer system that can greatly increase the amount of wastewater entering the system during storms. The SVSCD Board recently approved an ordinance that will require older laterals to be inspected and repaired, if necessary.
Read more at: Heavy Rains Cause Sonoma Valley Wastewater Overflows

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Occidental eyes inexpensive wastewater treatment plan

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The Occidental district has been under water board orders since 1997 to quit storing treated wastewater in a pond next to the treatment plant and discharging it into Dutch Bill Creek, a coho salmon spawning stream.

Twenty years of headaches over handling wastewater from the tiny west county community of Occidental appear to be nearing an end with a relatively inexpensive, although admittedly inelegant solution: Truck it down the road for treatment in Guerneville.
After scrapping plans to upgrade the Occidental treatment plant and pipe the effluent to a storage pond on a nearby vineyard at a price tag of up to $6 million, county officials settled instead on a $1.4 million project that depends on existing facilities and a pair of 5,000-gallon water trucks.
“It’s the most economical solution we could find,” said Cordel Stillman, Sonoma County Water Agency deputy chief engineer.
Cost has always been a factor, since the Occidental sanitation district, which serves about 118 parcels clustered along Bohemian Highway, already has the highest rate in the county — and among the highest in the state — at $2,086 a year per equivalent single-family dwelling.
A subsidy of about $400,000 a year from the water agency’s general fund has offset rate hikes, and the bargain-priced project won’t cause any increases, Stillman said.
Under the new plan, the trucks would haul Occidental’s wastewater, which averages 17,000 gallons a day in dry weather and up to 100,000 gallons during rainstorms, from the lift station on the Occidental Camp Meeker Road about nine miles to the Guerneville treatment plant, also operated by the water agency.
As a backup plan, when wastewater volume is high or roads are closed, Occidental’s wastewater would be trucked — in the opposite direction — to another one of the water agency’s eight treatment plants located next to the Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport.
Both the Guerneville and airport plants provide tertiary treatment of wastewater, the highest level of sewage processing.
Read more at: Occidental eyes inexpensive wastewater treatment plan | The Press Democrat

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Contaminated water found in Rohnert Park subdivision 

Derek Moore, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Blaise Turek looked forward to taking a hot shower after he and his wife returned home from vacation in mid-December. But when he turned the faucet on, brownish water with a putrid stench flowed out.
“The smell was off the charts,” he said.
Almost a month later, the Tureks and more than a dozen other property owners in the Canon Manor West neighborhood just east of Rohnert Park are still dealing with fallout from contamination in their water wells.
County health officials this week revealed that 17 of 31 residential wells tested in the development south of Sonoma State University are ridden with potentially harmful bacteria, including E. coli in seven of the contaminated water sources. Besides ordering residents to discontinue using the wells, officials will be sending letters to every property owner in the 257-acre development warning them of the problem and urging precautions.
“I think it’s an urgency,” said Karen Holbrook, the county’s deputy health officer. “People should be aware that they are potentially drinking water that’s not safe.”
More than a public health concern, the well contamination in Canon Manor West highlights longstanding disputes in several Sonoma County neighborhoods over water rights and responsibility for ensuring that the water is safe.
Holbrook on Wednesday said the consensus among county officials and those from the city of Rohnert Park — which maintains a sewer line in Canon Manor West — is that failing septic systems and surface water contamination are to blame for the well problems.
Several residents, however, accuse the county of using the current crisis as an excuse to enforce an ordinance requiring Canon Manor West residents to hook up to public water and sewer lines, abandon and destroy septic systems and to discontinue well use for domestic purposes.
Read more at: Contaminated water found in Rohnert Park subdivision | The Press Democrat

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E. coli contamination in wells near Rohnert Park prompts alert

Derek Moore, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Sonoma County officials fanned out in the Canon Manor neighborhood east of Rohnert Park this week warning dozens of residents that water drawn from private wells may be contaminated with E. coli and fecal coliform bacteria.
Two wells outside homes in the neighborhood near Sonoma State University already have tested positive for what county officials called “extremely high” levels of the two strains of bacteria. The county ordered the property owners to discontinue using the wells, which are in the 1700 block of Lynn Drive. The owners have subsequently hooked up to a system operated by the Penngrove/Kenwood Water Co.
County health officials stressed that there have been no reports of anyone being sickened from drinking or using water from contaminated wells in Canon Manor. Symptoms of E. coli infection include abdominal distress and headaches. It’s unknown whether the contamination also includes potentially deadly strains of the bacteria as the county’s lab tests are not that specific, according to Karen Holbrook, the county’s deputy health officer.
“We’re acting out of an abundance of caution,” she said.
The county first received a complaint about sewage odors emanating from a well Dec. 18 from a property owner on Lynn Drive. Tests of wells on two adjacent properties revealed the presence of more than 2,419 colonies of E. coli and fecal coliform in a 100-milliliter sampling of water. There are no safe levels for either bacteria.
Read more at: E. coli contamination in wells near Rohnert Park | The Press Democrat

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State plans tighter oversight to stem Russian River pollution

Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Public workshop dates
A newly developed plan designed to improve water quality in the Russian River and address fecal bacterial contamination throughout the watershed will have profound ramifications for many North Coast residents, as state regulators target faulty sewage systems and other means through which human and animal waste may be entering waterways.
The state move, outlined in a draft action plan released by regulators last month, highlights the critical role the river plays as a water supply to more than 600,000 North Bay residents and as a popular recreational destination, offering swimming, boating and fishing opportunities.
It also shows the contamination problems facing the river are complex and multifaceted, affected by everything from failing municipal sewer lines, sewage holding ponds and residential septic tanks to homeless encampments, grazing cattle and dirty diapers left on river beaches.
Communities throughout the 1,484-square-mile watershed and thousands of residents dependent on septic tanks will be affected to varying degrees by the state step, if only because they must demonstrate their systems are operating correctly.
The plan has implications particularly for those in defined “high priority areas” — neighborhoods where bacterial levels have most often exceeded acceptable levels and where onsite waste disposal systems, like septic tanks, are densely located, in close proximity to the river and its feeder streams.
Read more at: State plans tighter oversight to stem Russian River | The Press Democrat