Sonoma County Gazette, December 2007

Water and Wastewater Review: 2007

By Brenda Adelman

Year 2007 has been an extremely active year for water and wastewater issues in Sonoma County.  Russian River Watershed Protection Committee (RRWPC) has tracked numerous issues and written about them in the Gazette this year.  Here’s a year-end summary.

Santa Rosa Wastewater:

  • Discharge:  Santa Rosa has been actively developing a Russian River direct discharge.  Early in the year they eliminated studies of indirect discharges along with the direct discharge immediately downstream of their water intakes.  Remaining are two discharges in the Healdsburg area and one just downstream of Steelhead Beach in Forestville (near Russian River Utility’s well).  The City recently released 3 of the 6 documents containing studies of these projects on their website.  Remaining documents will be released by early spring of 2008.
  • Geyser’s Expansion:  After conducting environmental studies on the feasibility of increased pumping to the Geysers, the City successfully negotiated a contract with Calpine to increase wastewater pumping from 11 million gallons a day (mgd) to about 19 mgd.  Even at the lesser amount, river discharges were cut by at least 2/3 and now can be cut even further.  We don’t understand why they need to continue expenditures on direct river discharge.
  • Urban Irrigation and Incidental Runoff:  This has been a very active issue the entire year.  City officials have developed an ambitious program to irrigate up to 1000 million gallons (mg) a year within city boundaries.  They will divide this into four phases and start with a 250 mg project in the Stony Point Rd. area serving mostly commercial and industrial properties.  Our main concern is their demand for a Basin Plan Amendment to allow “incidental” runoff.  In effect, that amendment would eliminate the summer discharge prohibition.
  • Pharmaceuticals and personal care products in wastewater: This has been a topic of great concern due to the potential for harm to both humans and aquatic life.   To their credit, City officials acknowledged the issue, and held a workshop on the topic April 19th.  They invited me, as a representative of the environmental community, to give a presentation along with six academics known for work in the field. The program could be viewed on Santa Rosa’s Board of Public Utilities website.  The other speakers, though academic professionals, downplayed the risks, contrary to information in many studies.

Sonoma County Water Agency
The Board of Supervisors are directors of the Agency (SCWA).  This is confused by the fact that the Supervisors are also directors of the Occidental County Sanitation District (OCSD) and the Russian River County Sanitation District (RRCSD), and are also Directors of the Planning Department (only a few of their “hats”.)

Occidental County Sanitation District (OCSD)
Under orders to make major improvements to their decrepit wastewater treatment system by the Regional Water Quality Control Board, the Occidental CSD has been constructing a major replacement of their ancient collection system.  Supervisor Reilly publicly expressed hope that most serious violations will be addressed by this replacement and that a pipeline to Guerneville won’t be necessary.

Camp Meeker Recreation and Park District
In 2007, this agency released an EIR to address impacts of a proposed project to send raw sewage from Occidental and Camp Meeker via a new pipeline to Russian River County Sanitation District.  The cost of this project is estimated at $22 million.  The final EIR was released on Nov. 29th and the Rec & Park District will make a decision on whether to certify the document at their January meeting (second Tuesday at Anderson Hall: 7 PM).  They are under considerable pressure to certify it in spite of the many negative comments about the project (mainly concerns about costs and geological issues).  Camp Meeker faces an interesting dilemma in that Occidental will be fined $1000 a day penalties if it is not certified.

Russian River County Sanitation District (RRCSD)
The RRCSD under SCWA released three environmental documents for three separate projects this year.  All of these projects would serve to regionalize the RRCSD.  When our group calls for one environmental review for these three projects and the Camp Meeker/Occidental pipeline project, we were told that these projects stand alone and are not meant to regionalize our system. In the meantime, Regional Board staff are requesting regionalization to not only include the communities, but also all properties on septic along the pipeline.

Russian River Watershed Protection Committee, geologists Jane Neilson and Ray Waldbraun, and our attorney Ellison Folk of Shute, Mihaly, and Weinberger, (and other community groups) submitted extensive comments on the Irrigation Pipeline Project (32 mile pipeline from the plant to Graton area along Green Valley Rd. and Hwy. 116, and back along River Rd.).  We also commented on the very inadequate storage project to be constructed on the site of the treatment plant.  The Final EIR came before the Supervisors on Dec. 11th, after the writing of this article.  Another project improving the disinfection system was not challenged.

Monte Rio Sewer Project
We just learned that after many long years of planning and community protest, this project is being dropped due to huge increases in cost.  More details will be available later.

Board of Supervisors and General Plan
The Board of Supervisors began deliberations on the Sonoma County General Plan on Dec. 11, 2007, after the Planning Commission completed their work over two months ago.  We don’t have the schedule of future meetings, but you can call the Board of Supervisors at (707) 565-2241 to request that information.  Controversial decisions are expected for many riparian and habitat issues, water quality protections, and other water and wastewater issues.