Sonoma County Gazette, May 2012

“Toilet to tap” is on its way….
What does “toilet to tap” conjure up in your mind? Are all substances going down our toilets and sink drains totally removed before being recirculated into our drinking water supply, our recreational waters, and our environment?
In California, only 125 chemicals of the over 80,000 that exist are regulated. About 870 of those chemicals, sometimes at minute exposures, have been linked to such diseases as autism, obesity, diabetes, cancer (especially of reproductive system), birth defects, Parkinson’s, heart disease, and more.
Hundreds of scientific studies, often ignored by the mainstream media, show there are valid reasons to question the safety of our water resources, especially when scientists have been discovering, for example, that some male fish and frogs exposed on a full time basis to streams where discharge occurs, have turned into females. This is a canary in the mine and we should all be paying much closer attention.
All of the guardians of human and environmental health have thus far failed to devise a regulatory system that acknowledges the full extent of the problem, includes support for research that studies and addresses the synergystic effects of these chemicals, and either fully controls the harmful chemicals discharged or minimizes the need to do so through stringent conservation of our water resources.
Summer irrigation and potable reuse to supplant potable water supplies…
California officials are rightly concerned about current and future water shortages, especially in southern California. But rather than implementing stringent water conservation policies, a cheaper and environmentally safer approach, they recently set a goal of recycling 1.5 million acre feet of wastewater by 2020 to offset drinking water supplies and 2.5 million acre feet by 2030. (about 325,000 gallons per acre foot). The heat is on to increase wastewater reuse. In order to do that, they are dismantling the regulatory process necessary to assure it is done safely.
AB 2398, co-sponsored by Assemblymen Jared Huffman and Ben Hueso, is going to totally change the way irrigated wastewater is regulated. Under current law, all discharges are regulated by Regional Water Quality Control Boards, who oversee local Basin Plans that determine discharge criteria, reporting requirements, and standards needing to be met for discharges to legally occur. While this is an imperfect process, especially because it is extremely underfunded, they still address ALL beneficial uses, including human needs, and those of fish, wildlife, aquatic life, etc. They incorporate a public review process that addresses these issues. The new legislation would do neither.
The bill was actually written by Dr. David Smith as director of WateReuse California, a professional organization representing mostly water and wastewater utilities. Dr. Smith has been consulting with the City of Santa Rosa non-stop for about 25 years and is currently responsible for ushering them through their wastewater discharge permit renewal process. Over the years, Dr. Smith has fought incessently for higher river discharges, increased design capacity, lower standards, and diminished monitoring requirements.
Under AB 2398 wastewater irrigation would be allowed to run off into streams in large amounts before runoff reports are filed, at a time when waterways have minimal flows and cannot assimilate toxic substances. This is also the time of greatest human use. It is a time when water temperatures rise astronomically, bacteria proliferate, algal blooms appear in great abundance, and water quality conditions deteriorate. In the case of the Russian River, add this to the probable lowered flow changes demanded by the National Marine Fisheries Service, and we will have a river unfit to recreate in.
Some of you may not realize that the Russian River is a drinking water resource, not only for towns and communities along the river, but also for San Rafael, Novoto, Petaluma, Sonoma, Valley of the Moon, Cotati, Santa Rosa and Rohnert Park. Everyone connected to those systems will be affected by this Bill.
In addition, this Bill encourages direct potable reuse of highly treated “purified” water. This means, after the Department of Health establishes criteria and supposedly determines safety of the wastewater, it will be allowed to go directly into the drinking water supply. Highly treated wastewater is already going into the ground water in some Southern California areas, a practice determined to be safe, and yet in light of new findings we wonder how much has been considered in making this determination.
Major concerns about AB 2398……
While we do not oppose all recycled water use, we believe that great harm will occur if this new Bill is approved as written. Major issues include:
• Tertiary wastewater is lumped in with “purified” water in terms of declassifying it as a “waste”. That could result in uncontrolled and unregulated runoff to streams which would further degrade our already challenged waterways.
• New scientific studies indicate very low doses of endocrine disruptors (e.d.’s) in the parts per trillion range can have significant detrimental effects on humans and wildlife. It is of great concern that the State’s Scientific Panel addressing this issue concluded that so few e.d.’s are found in wastewater, that monitoring for such chemicals in irrigation water is unnecessary.
• Reporting limits of irrigation runoff of tertiary wastewater will not be required until 50,000 gallons has been discharged IN EACH INCIDENT! Although the legislative analysis claims this has been taken out, we find it is still in the most recent version of the Bill.
• By putting regulatory powers under the Department of Health, this will virtually eliminate public process and input.

You can help….
Please help RRWPC fight this legislation by requesting that Sonoma County Water Agency withdraw their support for this Bill in its current form. Please ask Assemblyman Jared Huffman to advocate significant changes to this bill that will address these issues. You can find a target letter link on our Home Page addressing both goals at Please sign and send letters to Supervisor Zane and Assemblyman Huffman. You can also contact us directly at and ask to receive our current mailer which gives copies of the letter and more information. Please include your mailing address.

RRWPC still needs to raise funds for our lawsuit against the Water Agency regarding their approval of the Estuary Project which we have written about extensively in prior issues of the Gazette. We also need support in our battle against this legislation. Please help. Any size donation is welcome. You can access PayPal at our website, or send checks to RRWPC, P.O. Box 501 Guerneville, CA 95446.