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
Frank Robertson, SONOMA WEST TIMES
Guernewood Park residents weren’t exactly crying ‘Oh, thank-you’ this week to a Christmas gift of raw sewage from their Occidental neighbors.
“Totally unacceptable,” said Susan Packer, a Guernewood Park vacation homeowner whose property is on Riverside Drive adjacent to where the County of Sonoma wants to deliver Occidental’s sewage.“
This is a residential neighborhood,” said Packer, writing on the Nextdoor Guernewood Park email site where alarmed neighbors are now talking about the plan, announced two days before Christmas, to truck Occidental’s sewage to Guerneville for treatment and disposal. “We should not be the repository of Occidental’s problems,” said Packer.
The Sonoma County Water Agency (SCWA) sent notices of the project to Guerneville neighbors two weeks ago describing the project and opening a public review window that closes in two more weeks, at 5 p.m. on Jan. 23. The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors is expected to give final approval after a public hearing scheduled for March 21.
Some Guernewood Park neighbors say that’s too fast and the rush to bring Occidental’s sewage to Guerneville seems a little hurried considering that Occidental residents have been arguing for more than 20 years about how to dispose of their sewage. One thing Occidental ratepayers agree on is that it’s too expensive to keep the sewage in Occidental when it can be trucked to Guerneville where the town treatment plant operates at about half capacity.
But the abrupt notification and brief public review window are problematic, said Guernewood Park resident Richard Skaff.
“Things have been happening with no public discussion,” said Skaff, who asked newly elected Fifth District supervisor Lynda Hopkins this week to hold a community meeting in Guerneville so that “local residents could hear about the plan and provide you with their thoughts and concerns,” said Skaff, in an email to Hopkins this week.
The Occidental Sanitation District would transport about 15,000 gallons of raw sewage per day to a Russian River Sanitation District lift station sandwiched between Highway 116 and Riverside Drive in Guernewood Park. From there the sewage would be mixed with Guerneville’s sewage and pumped to the River District treatment plant on Neeley Road in Vacation Beach.
The Guerneville Transport Compliance Project would enable Occidental to stop draining its treated wastewater into Dutch Bill Creek in the winter.
Sonoma County Water Agency spokeswoman Ann DuBay said anyone with questions about the Occidental project should call her for information and guidance on the environmental issues and approval process. Her number is 524-8578.The public review period ends Jan. 23 at 5 p.m. Comments should be submitted to Jeff Church, 404 Aviation Blvd, Santa Rosa, CA 95403 or to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Source: Guerneville: ‘no thanks’ to Occidental sewage – Sonoma West Times and News: News
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
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
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
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
Barry Eberling, NAPA VALLEY REGISTER
Napa Sanitation District has new, multi-million dollar plans to slake the county’s growing thirst for recycled water.
The district has almost completed $20 million in projects to double its recycled water output. It’s also working on a $14 million Milliken-Sarco-Tulocay pipeline and a $20 million Carneros line to deliver this increased output to more rural homes and vineyards.
Once all of this is done, the district each year will be turning out 3,600 acre feet of recycled water good enough to irrigate vineyards, landscaping, parks and golf courses, though not to drink. An acre-foot is enough water to cover one acre a foot deep.
As an encore, the district will try to increase this amount to 4,500 acre feet over the coming decade. A $33.2 million package of proposed projects to help meet that goal should soon be under the microscope of an environmental impact report.
“There’s more demand for recycled water in Napa than we can provide,” district Chief Financial Officer Jeff Tucker said.
Read more at: Napa Sanitation is doubling its deliveries of recycled water
Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Cities up and down the Russian River watershed are urging Sonoma County to pass a local law requiring drug companies to pay for a system to collect unwanted or expired medicines and dispose of them in a way that is safer for residents and the environment.
Six Sonoma County cities have signed letters urging the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors to study enacting such a countywide ordinance. The Santa Rosa City Council is set to take up the matter Tuesday night and two other cities, Sonoma and Petaluma, are considering the issue.
If approved, such a law would shift the burden for disposal of prescription medicines, which can harm aquatic environments, from local governments to the private sector.
“It’s inequitable because we’re picking up the tab for this work while the most important stakeholder in this process, the pharmaceutical industry, is not part of the solution as of yet,” Cotati City Councilman Mark Landman told Santa Rosa’s Board of Public Utilities last month.
Sonoma and Mendocino counties have a publicly funded but rag-tag medicine collection system that has kept 90,000 pounds of drugs out of landfills since 2007. The 11 cities and other government agencies in the Russian River Watershed Association fund and manage the program.
But the high cost — amounting to about $1.1 million to date — fragmented management responsibility, and sharp decrease in number of drop-off sites have left the program struggling.
Read more at: Push on in Sonoma County to pass pill disposal to drug companies
Ellen Knickmeyer, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Showering during California’s drought is a guilt-free experience for homeowners Catarina Negrin and Noah Friedman.
The Berkeley couple — she runs a pre-school, he’s an architect — are early adopters of a home plumbing do-over that’s becoming more popular during California’s record four-year dry stretch.
California, like many states, long required all water used in homes to be piped out with the sewage, fearing health risks if water recycling is done clumsily.
Since 2010, however, the increasingly dry state has come around, and now even encourages the reuse of so-called gray water, which typically includes the gently-used runoff from bathroom sinks, showers, bathtubs and washing machines.
As mandatory conservation kicked in statewide this month, forcing many of California’s 38 million people to face giving up on greenery, these recycling systems have become attractive options in new homes, right along with granite countertops. California Building Industry Association executive Robert Raymer rattles off the drought-conscious top builders that now routinely offer in-home water recycling.
And California’s building codes are catching up as well, allowing owners of existing homes to create the simplest systems for the safest gray water without a permit.
So while others think about hauling buckets to catch stray drips from their sinks and tubs, Negrin and Friedman can relax: Each gallon they use in the shower means another for the butterflies that duck and bob over their vegetable garden, for the lemon tree shading the yard, and for two strutting backyard chickens busily investigating it all.
“I love a lush garden, and so it seems like why not, right? I could have a lush garden if it doesn’t go into the sewer system,” Negrin said. “So, yes, “I’m going to take a shower.”
Because pathogens swimming in untreated gray water can transmit disease if humans ingest them, most modern health and building codes have long made recycling it impractical. Many families did it anyway, without official oversight or permits. Greywater Action, a group that promotes household water recycling and trains families and installers on the do’s and don’ts, estimates that more than a million Californians had illegal systems before plumbing codes were updated.
But interest in doing it the right way has soared since April 1, when Gov. Jerry Brown ordered a 25-percent cut in water use by cities and towns. Palo Alto gray-water system installer Sassan Golafshan saw his website crash within a day from the surge in traffic.
Read more at: California’s Drought Spurring Water Recycling at Home | Sci-Tech Today
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.