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Santa Rosa proclaims flood emergency after 250 million gallons of treated sewage released into streams

Will Schmitt, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Santa Rosa officials said Tuesday that managers at the city’s wastewater plant have been forced to release at least 250 million gallons of treated sewage into two creeks and the nearby Laguna de Santa Rosa amid record inflow to the facility that began in last week’s storm.

The three-day deluge pushed more than five times the normal flow of wastewater and runoff into the city’s Laguna de Santa Rosa plant, City Manager Sean McGlynn told the City Council on Tuesday. It was the highest inflow ever recorded at the site, according to the city.

To avoid overwhelming the Llano Road facility, managers began last Wednesday releasing fully treated sewage into Santa Rosa and Colgan creeks and the rain-swollen Laguna, which overtook city blocks on the eastern edge of Sebastopol, including the upscale Barlow shopping and business district.

The emergency release is ongoing, city officials said Tuesday. All three waterways drain into the Russian River.

McGlynn’s report came as the City Council affirmed a local emergency declaration he made last week at the end of the storm. The move is meant to ensure the city has both the flexibility and legal protection to alter operations at its wastewater plant, where flows have abated but remain higher than normal.

Partially treated waste also was diverted last week into storage basins, with plans now underway to fully treat that sewage. That diversion took place from late Tuesday to Thursday afternoon and has not impacted nearby waterways, according to the city.

The plant has enough remaining storage space to handle the extra volume from this week’s rain, Santa Rosa Water officials said. They have yet to discover any damage at the plant stemming from the past storm, which dumped a one-day record of 5.66 inches of rain on Santa Rosa.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/9353682-181/santa-rosa-city-council-proclaims

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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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Sonoma Valley wastewater spill totals 2 million gallons

Guy Kovner, PRESS DEMOCRAT

A faulty valve caused the accidental release of about 2 million gallons of untreated wastewater into a slough in Sonoma Valley, a county water official said Saturday.

The valve on a pipeline in the Sonoma Valley County Sanitation District failed to fully close and was leaking wastewater for about 24 hours into Schell Slough, said Ann DuBay, a Sonoma Water spokeswoman. The flow was stopped at 10:45 a.m. Saturday, she said.

State and regional authorities were notified, and specialists sent to the spill site did not notice any dead or distressed fish or other species, DuBay said.

The valve is part of a system that collects wastewater from the equivalent of about 17,000 Sonoma Valley homes. The wastewater is treated at a plant on Eighth Street East, near the city of Sonoma.

Source: https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/9166172-181/sonoma-valley-wastewater-spill-totals?sba=AAS

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Occidental sewage transfer may be stalled by legalities

Frank Robertson, SONOMA WEST TIMES
A county plan to truck Occidental’s sewage to Guerneville for treatment and disposal appears to be stopped up for now owing to neighborhood opposition and possible legal issues.
Guernewood Park neighbors near the site where sewage would be unloaded at a Russian River Sanitation District pump station met with new Fifth District Supervisor Lynda Hopkins last week to vent their concerns about neighborhood truck traffic, potential odors and other compatibility issues if the sewage plan goes forward.
A sympathetic Hopkins told neighbors there may also be a legal problem if proposed pump station improvements, including a new paved driveway under the redwoods at the site, constitute an expansion of the sewer system onto vacant residential property next door.
“I don’t see how we can say that’s not an expansion,” said Hopkins, regarding a proposed new turnaround that sewage trucks would need on the property next to the lift station located between Highway 116 and Riverside Dr.
Sonoma County acquired the neighboring property in the 1980s as part of a legal settlement with the owner; a condition of the sale included an agreement that the county would not expand sewage system operations onto the neighboring property, said Hopkins. The previous owner had a house on the property that was in the path of a prevailing breeze carrying the lift station’s smell. The county demolished the house.
The deed restriction only surfaced last week after neighbors began asking questions about the Occidental sewage transfer plan that seemed to have been formulated with numerous discussions among Occidental Sanitation District residents but little or no dialogue with Guerneville residents whose properties would be impacted by the sewage transfer process involving from five to 15 daily truck deliveries of raw sewage arriving at the Riverside Drive lift station.
A Sonoma County Water Agency environmental review of the plan last year concluded it would have “no significant impact” on the Riverside Drive environment, but neighbors last week said they were never told about the project and are prepared to challenge the environmental finding in court.
Read more at: Occidental sewage transfer may be stalled by legalities – Sonoma West Times and News: News

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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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Healdsburg may expand water reuse program

Clark Mason, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Healdsburg is moving toward expanding the use of its recycled wastewater as more grape growers express interest in its use for vineyard irrigation.
The City Council has taken an initial step of expanding the area where Healdsburg delivers reclaimed water, requiring a new two-mile pipeline from the wastewater treatment plant to serve approximately 600 acres between Westside Road and the Russian River to the south.
Some vineyard managers there are eager to get access to the water, and Healdsburg — which has been under pressure for years to reduce discharges of that water into the Russian River during summer months — is ready to oblige, to the point of footing the approximate $500,000 construction cost of the pipeline.
“We’re under a mandate to not release water — tertiary, highly treated water — into the Russian River five months of the year,” Mayor Tom Chambers said Friday. “We need to come up with various ways to achieve that and one way is to provide water for irrigation to vineyards interested in doing so.”
Read more at: Healdsburg may expand water reuse program | The Press Democrat

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Flood wall built to protect Santa Rosa treatment plant

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Santa Rosa is putting the finishing touches on a $200,000 wall surrounding vital sections of the Laguna wastewater treatment plant in an effort to prevent El Niño-fueled flood waters from inundating the low-lying facility.

Workers this week maneuvered into place the final few 4,000-pound concrete blocks that will make up most of a 950-foot-long wall designed to keep the waters of the Laguna de Santa Rosa at bay in the event of serious storms.
“It’s a little bit like Legos,” explained Mike Prinz, director of operations at the Llano Road plant, describing the construction process.
The location of the city’s wastewater treatment plant alongside the Laguna leaves it vulnerable to flooding. In the winter of 2005 and 2006, for example, floodwaters entered the plant and swept away an estimated 50,000 gallons of partially treated wastewater. For that and other violations, the city was fined $194,500 by the North Coast Water Quality Control Board.
So plant officials have been thinking for a few years about building a permanent flood protection wall to keep the plant safe from 100-year or even 500-year floods, Prinz said. But that project is still being studied and has yet to be funded.

Read more at: Flood wall built to protect Santa Rosa treatment plant

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Billions of pieces of tiny plastic litter found in San Francisco Bay

Paul Rogers, SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS
San Francisco Bay is contaminated with widespread pollution from billions of tiny pieces of plastic in greater concentrations than the Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay and other major U.S. bodies of water, according to a groundbreaking new study.
At least 3.9 million pieces of plastic pour into the bay every day from eight large sewage treatment plants — a relentless torrent of litter that ranges from tiny “microbeads” found in cosmetics, facial scrubs and toothpastes, to bits of synthetic fabric from fleece jackets, pants and other clothes, which break down as they are washed.
“We’re concerned about these high levels. This was unexpected,” said Rebecca Sutton, a senior scientist at the San Francisco Estuary Institute, a nonprofit research center based in Richmond.
Microplastic poses a growing concern in oceans and other aquatic habitat. Not only does the plastic contaminate the bay and wildlife, experts say, it is also working its way up the food chain, binding to chemicals in the water and posing a potential health risk to people eating fish caught in the bay.
In the study, the first of its kind to broadly document pollution from “microplastic” in the bay, researchers dragged tight-meshed nets along the surface of the water in nine areas of the bay, from Oakland and Treasure Island to locations near San Jose. They found on average 1 million pieces of tiny plastic per square kilometer — an area of about 250 acres — at the water’s surface or a few inches below it in the South Bay, a concentration nine times higher than levels of similar plastics found in Lake Erie.
Further north, off Oakland and San Francisco, they found 310,000 pieces per square kilometer, still double the highest levels in Chesapeake Bay and triple the levels in Lake Erie, the most polluted of the Great Lakes.
Sutton, a lead author of the study who has a doctorate in environmental chemistry from UC Berkeley, said that researchers also accidentally captured nine small fish while taking their water samples. Inside each fish they found an average of six pieces of plastic.
Other scientific studies have found that tiny pieces of plastic in the world’s oceans and water bodies, sometimes so dense that they outnumber plankton, can absorb contaminants such as pesticides and PCBs, which accumulate in fish when they mistake the plastic for food. The small fish are then eaten by larger fish. And people who eat the affected fish can be exposed to the chemicals when they consume the plastic.
Read more at: Plastic pollution: Billions of pieces of tiny plastic litter found in San Francisco Bay – San Jose Mercury News

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California pledges changes in protecting underground water

Ellen Knickmeyer, ASSOCIATED PRESS
California is proposing broad changes in the way it protects underground water sources from oil and gas operations, after finding 2,500 instances in which the state authorized oil and gas operations in protected water aquifers.
State oil and gas regulators on Monday released a plan they sent the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last week for bringing the state back into compliance with federal safe-drinking water requirements.
An ongoing state and federal review has determined the state has repeatedly authorized oil-industry injection into aquifers that were supposed to be protected as current or potential sources of water for drinking and watering crops and livestock.
An Associated Press analysis found hundreds of the now-challenged state permits for oilfield injection into protected aquifers have been granted since 2011, despite growing EPA warnings about oilfield threats to the state’s underground water reserves.
"It’s a problem that needs our very close attention and an urgent path forward," Steve Bohlen, head of the state Department of Conservation’s oil and gas division, told reporters Monday.
Bohlen said 140 of those 2,553 injection wells were of primary concern to the state now, because they were actively injecting oil-field fluids into aquifers with especially designated good water quality.
State water officials currently are reviewing those 140 oil-field wells to see which are near water wells and to assess any contamination of water aquifers from the oil and gas operations, Bohlen said.
The U.S. EPA had given the state until Friday to detail how it would deal with current injection into protected water aquifers and stop future permitting of risky injection.
Read more via California pledges changes in protecting underground water | The Press Democrat.

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Sonoma County Water Agency update on Occidental wastewater treatment

Cordel Stillman, SONOMA COUNTY WATER AGENCY
On January 7, about 40 people gathered at the Union Hotel for a meeting to discuss the beginning of the design process and environmental analysis for the proposed Occidental County Sanitation District (District) Recycled Water Project (Project). The meeting to discuss the Notice of Preparation was the first step in the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) process.  Attendees asked more than two dozen questions. This was no surprise. For the past 18 months, ratepayers and people living in the outlying areas have regularly attended community meetings on the issue, asking hard questions and proposing a variety of ideas to help minimize rate increases while beneficially using the recycled water.
In a nutshell, here is the problem: The District’s current treatment plant on LuDan Road is an old, inadequate system that needs upgrading. The plant currently treats water to a secondary level. In addition, the District is under a cease-and-desist order to end the discharge of recycled water into Graham’s Pond by January 1, 2018 . The pond, which drains into Dutch Bill Creek, is currently used to store recycled water.

  • To solve the problem, the District is proposing to do the following:Upgrade treatment to a tertiary level, plus any changes that will allow for discharges into Dutch Bill Creek from October 1-May 15.  Discharges can only be equivalent to 1% of the flow of Dutch Bill Creek. This means that storage options will be needed.
  • The Project is currently contemplating two possible treatment sites:  The existing lift station (Occidental-Camp Meeker Road) or the existing treatment plant (LuDan Road). Disinfection and filtration would be included in the treatment process. Disinfection could be by either chlorine or ultra-violet light.
  • The recycled water would be used to irrigate agricultural operations in the Harrison Grade area to offset current well water use and the trucking of water from other watersheds.
  • A recycled water pipeline would be constructed to a property on Morelli Lane. Dutton Vineyards is building a pond on this property, and would like to store and use recycled water for irrigation. The District is also interested in other storage and irrigation options along the pipeline route to beneficially use the recycled water.
  • While a pipeline route is identified in the Notice of Preparation (NOP) that the District released, the actual route could vary after design work is conducted and a treatment location is determined.
  • The project also contemplates a truck-filling station at the CDF fire station on Acreage Lane.
  • Once a preferred project has been identified through the design process, the project will undergo CEQA review. A draft document that identifies the proposed project and any potential impacts and mitigation measures to avoid or minimize those impacts will be made available to the public for review and comment.
  • In order to meet the January 2018 deadline, the project is on a tight timeline. Comments on the Notice of Preparation (which was released in December) were due by January 22. The next step is the preparation of an environmental document. At the same time, the District is hiring a design consultant to further develop the project, including determining the best location for treatment and a specific pipeline route. By 2017, we hope to have a complete design and for construction to be underway.

Please email Ann.DuBay@scwa.ca.gov if you are interested in being added to the District’s email list. In the meantime, check our webpage, www.sonomacountywater.org/OCSD for environmental documents, project facts, and timeline and information about recycled water.
via Sonoma County Water Agency Update on Occidental Wastewater Treatment.