Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Most government officials in Sonoma County welcomed the rains that began drenching the region Friday as a much-needed midwinter boost to reservoir levels following an unusually dry January.
But when big winter storms make the barometer fall, Henry Mikus’ blood pressure rises.
The executive director of the Sonoma County Waste Management Agency is under strict orders from state water quality regulators to reduce runoff from the 25-acre composting operation atop Sonoma County’s central landfill.
Rainwater that seeps through the open-air compost piles historically has been allowed to mingle with stormwater from other parts of the landfill, and in significant storms both get discharged into Stemple Creek.
But Mikus, under the threat of fines from the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board and a Clean Water Act lawsuit filed by neighbors, is overseeing an unusual effort to keep the wastewater out of the creek this winter by hauling it via tanker truck to local treatment plants.
“The truth is, it has gone better than anybody expected,” Mikus said of the work to date.
via Rains send Sonoma County compost operators scrambling | The Press Democrat.
Mathew Swain, NORTH BAY BUSINESS JOURNAL
After 13 years of deliberation and drafting, the new Industrial General Stormwater Permit takes effect July 1. The new permit requires major changes in the way that businesses engaged in industrial activities plan for, monitor and control pollution in rainwater runoff.
Companies should prepare for these changes to put themselves on the best footing when the new permit takes effect. As they say, “the devil is in the details,” but here is a quick overview of the major changes in the new permit and the key issues companies should start thinking about.
Read more via Vine Notes: Plan ahead for major stormwater rule changes – North Bay Business Journal – North San Francisco Bay Area, Sonoma, Marin, Napa counties – Archive.
Angela Hart, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Thursday’s deluge caused sewage spills in four areas of Sonoma Valley as well as one location in Penngrove, Sonoma County Water Agency officials said.
Large amounts of untreated wastewater was overflowing from manholes onto various byways, including along Highway 12, at the intersection of Valletti and Cassabella drives, and on Fourth Street East at East Spain Street in Sonoma near Sebastiani Vineyards and Winery. In Penngrove, the sewage overflow was near the intersection of Ely Road and Old Redwood Highway.
“In Sonoma Valley, we have an older system with 50-plus-year-old pipes,” said Ann DuBay, a spokeswoman for the Water Agency. “So when a lot of water gets in there, it starts to overflow.”
DuBay said the problem was caused by Thursday’s heavy rains. Normally, about 4 million gallons of sewage and water is sent to the Sonoma Valley County Sanitation District, where it is treated. Runoff from the storm increased the flow to 14 million gallons, DuBay said. The district serves 17,000 households and businesses in the area.
Sonoma County officials are advising area residents to stay out of the stormwater, because of potential health and safety hazards.
via Stormwater floods wastewater system in Sonoma Valley and | The Press Democrat.
Russian River Watershed Association, THE SONOMA COUNTY GAZETTE
The term “rain garden” is being used more and more by landscape architects and gardeners alike. It is a fanciful term that conjures images of a garden that magically creates rain. What a rain garden is, however, is one of many landscape features that fits into the category of “low impact development for storm water” or LID. Like many other LID features, rain gardens gather, hold, filter, and slow storm water runoff.
The basic principles of LID for storm water are to filter, infiltrate, and slow the flow of storm water. This is the “new school” way of thinking of storm water as opposed to the “old school” approach which was to design sites to move as much storm water as fast as possible off-site and into the storm drain system. Flood control and building foundation stability were the narrow focus. The problem with this old school, or traditional, method of managing storm water is that it can be detrimental to the health of our creeks and other waterways, including the Russian River. Storm water that flows off of hardscape, such as driveways, walkways and rooftops, typically carries pollutants with it into our storm drain system. The storm drain system then discharges storm water directly into our creeks and streams without being treated.
Another problem with directing storm water straight into the storm drain system is the effect of “hydromodification” of our streams. Hydromodification is the result of increased storm water runoff in terms of both volume and peak flow rate. The results are often eroded stream banks, downstream flooding, and increased sedimentation. These effects are harmful to fish and wildlife that depend on healthy and balanced waterways.
Fortunately, there are many options for reducing the effects of development with LID features. Rain gardens, just one example of LID, are sloped to gather rainwater from surrounding paved areas. They are underlain with soils and gravels that allow for slow percolation and then landscaped with plants that can tolerate saturated soils and even short periods of standing water while also keeping the soil in place, helping filter out some pollutants and slowing the flow of storm water.
Another LID feature that a homeowner can implement easily is to disconnect rooftop downspouts which drain directly onto hardscape and reroute the drainage to a vegetated area where roof runoff will be filtered and slowed before discharging into the storm drain system. Some of the runoff will infiltrate into site soils and be taken up by landscaping or natural vegetation. Homeowners should take precautions to not pose adverse effects to the structural integrity of foundations or steep hillside slopes.
Read more via Your Watershed – Plant a Rain Garden – November 2014.
Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Santa Rosa has been encouraging people to conserve water and protect creeks from harmful runoff for years.
Now it’s moving forward with a $1 million project to show them how it’s done.The Santa Rosa City Council on Tuesday signed off on plans to rip out two large lawns at City Hall and replace them with demonstration gardens designed to save water and special landscaping features meant to cleanse stormwater runoff.
“This garden is a great way to show people that there is a choice,” Vice Mayor Robin Swinth said. “They don’t have to choose between green and brown; they can actually make a third choice that is beautiful and great for the community.”
The city has many programs to encourage residents to reduce their indoor and outdoor water usage. The outdoor programs include paying people to remove water-thirsty lawns, giving rebates for gray water reuse systems and rainwater harvesting systems, and educating people and businesses about “water wise” gardens.
It has also required developers of new homes to install water efficient landscaping and design their projects to minimize stormwater runoff and improve the cleanliness of water that does run into creeks.
The City Hall project has been many years in the making and will allow the city to “walk the walk” when it comes to the water conservation and stormwater measures it requests of residents and requires of developers, said Utilities Director David Guhin.
Read more via Santa Rosa gives water-saving demonstration garden green light | The Press Democrat.
Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Neighbors of Sonoma County’s Central Landfill are threatening to file a federal Clean Water Act lawsuit over the pollution they say has been running off compost piles and fouling surrounding waterways for years.
Residents of nearby Happy Acres subdivision say they’ll sue by mid-August unless they can reach a settlement with the county over the wastewater they say is generated by the 35-acre compost operation located at the northern end of the landfill.
“Who would want to live next to a compost facility that’s spewing pollution into the adjacent creek?” said Attorney Michael Lozeau, who represents the group Renewed Efforts of Neighbors Against Landfill Expansion, or RENALE.
via Sonoma County landfill neighbors sue over pollution | The Press Democrat.
Craig Miller, KQED SCIENCE
Three years into a historic drought, we’re hearing a lot of talk about resilience in California. For inspiration, Californians might do well to look south — all the way to Australia.
“We had here a phenomenon that people called ‘bucket back,’” says Rebecca Nelson, describing the back strain Aussies would suffer from catching the excess shower water in buckets and hauling it outside to water the garden. Nelson is a research fellow at Stanford’s Woods Institute for the Environment. She lives in Australia, which recently endured a nine-year drought — something that hasn’t happened in California for at least a century. (There were two six-year droughts in the 20th century.)
Bucket back was the least of it. The stretch that came to be known as the Big Dry was the worst drought in Australia’s history. During the first decade of this century, it devastated the farm economy (at one point halving the number of sheep, the nation’s principal livestock) and triggered severe restrictions on urban water use. But Nelson says it also transformed the water culture in that country. She says some ways they found to adapt were relatively painless — and much of it stuck.
via Drought Lessons From Down Under | Science | KQED Public Media for Northern CA.
Jeff Quackenbush, NORTH BAY BUSINESS JOURNAL
As state water-quality regulators prepare to try again this fall with a framework designed to control erosion into the Napa River and Sonoma Creek watersheds, winegrape growers in those areas are getting new tools to help prepare for the as-yet-undefined rules.
San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board staff plan to issue notice by the end of June about the preparation of draft environmental-impact documents connected to general wastewater discharge requirements (WDRs) for vineyard operations in those watersheds, according to Naomi Feger, chief of the regional board’s planning division.
“We will be looking at the regulations that exist in Napa and Sonoma (counties),” she said. “They will not be in conflict.”
The goal is to hold the first scoping meeting somewhere in Napa in mid-July then compile comments from that and those received during the crafting of a conditional waiver of WDRs for vineyards in the two watersheds, an effort that ended in March of last year amid opposition. The current timeline is to release a draft environmental document for the vineyard WDRs in late fall and convene the first public hearings in the first quarter of next year, Ms. Feger said.
via Vineyard erosion rules effort restarts – North Bay Business Journal – North San Francisco Bay Area, Sonoma, Marin, Napa counties – Archive.
Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Water quality regulators are threatening to fine Sonoma County $10,000 per day if it doesn’t figure out a way to eliminate runoff from the composting operations at the county’s central landfill site west of Cotati.
The 25-acre compost facility run by the Sonoma County Waste Management Agency has been under orders since last year to prevent runoff from reaching nearby creeks.
In a March 18 letter, the North Coast Water Quality Control Board officials said they were “concerned by the lack of progress” in resolving the problem before next winter’s rainy season.
via Sonoma County risks fines over compost runoff at central landfill | The Press Democrat.