RRWPC Comments on Waste Discharge Requirements and Master Reclamation Permit for the City of SR Subregional Water Reclamation System, Sonoma County, July 22, 2013

July 22, 2013

Comments on:  Proposed Waste Discharge Requirements and Master Reclamation Permit Order No. R1-2013-0001, NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) Permit # CA0022764 , WDID NO. 1B830990SON

 Attention: Charles Reed

Delivered by Email: CReed@waterboards.ca.gov

Dear Mr. St. John, Mr. Reed, Chair Noren and Regional Board Members:


The introduction to our original comments submitted on December 3, 2012, contained information about our group, our history of involvement with Santa Rosa’s permit issues, our concerns about endocrine disruption and the possible contribution of wastewater as it is irrigated on the local land, and more.  We see no need to repeat introductory information here, but please be aware that none of our concerns have changed, and if anything, they have increased.

We also want to mention that at the time of writing these comments, we have not seen staff’s response to our original comments, but understand they will be released sometime in mid-August, before the August 22nd Board meeting.

RRWPC is pleased with many of the changes in this new draft.  We want to commend staff for the thoroughness with which they approached this complex challenge.  We have to admit that the implications of this effort are not always easy for the layperson to comprehend and we hope our comments will contribute positively to the effort.   While we address several issues, our main concern involves the problems with monitoring and enforcing irrigation practices in order to avoid incidental runoff and potential exposures to endocrine disrupting chemicals.  Most of our comments are intended to provide evidence that monitoring, reporting, and enforcing irrigation applications, (Rohnert Park’s being most obvious), are inadequate, and allows what we believe is excessive wastewater applications to the land at a time when the ability of the Laguna to assimilate wastewater toxins is minimal, and potential for human and aquatic life exposure is great.


Effluent limitation for Total Nitrogen:

This revised permit allows a mass emission rate limit of nitrogen of 42,000 lbs. in discharge season; and thereby eliminates the stated limit in the prior permit of no net discharge of nitrogen. Staff provided detailed explanations for this change in the new draft permit.

The Fact Sheet (pg. F-58) justifies this change by arguing that although the limit of no net loading of nitrogen was imposed by the last permit, it was never implemented due to extensions of time limits through the Nutrient Offset Program.  This is characterized as a  scheduling snafu, leaving unclear what the environmental effects were during the term of the permit.  While it states that the nitrogen discharge won’t actually be increased over the last permit, the intent of the former permit is nonetheless being altered.

This limit appears to apply only to winter discharge, but we have some further questions about what was considered in setting this limit.  Was the nitrogen contribution in urban storm water runoff considered in arriving at the 42,000 lbs. mass loading limit?  Furthermore, was summer loadings from irrigation runoff considered?  What about consideration of seepage into creeks through the ground with irrigation water that contains nitrogen?

Another question we have about this discharge is whether the nitrogen can convert to nitrates as it seeps underground. I know this is an issue for the SNMP, but I have not been able to study the recently released document yet.  If this is the case, then it should put another important constraint on irrigation use.

Nevertheless, while it feels like back sliding, 42,000 lbs. doesn’t seem a huge amount to discharge during winter flows and staff gives a lengthy justification whereby phosphorus is touted as the limiting nutrient and no harm would come from allowing the 42,000 lbs. of nitrogen to be discharged.  At this point, we feel we don’t have sufficient expertise to argue that point and leave it for others to debate at this time.  Nonetheless, until a TMDL is complete, it does seem that any addition may have unknown consequences to nutrient pollution in Laguna area creeks and streams receiving these discharges in one form or another.  Our main concern is that staff appears to base this decision on limited and possibly inadequate information.

Finally, we are very concerned that the issue of nutrient discharge resulting from irrigation spills is being ignored on the assumption that spills will be so negligible, they will cause no harm.  In the rest of the comments we attempt to argue otherwise. If you investigate the true amount of irrigation runoff in the Laguna area, you might discover the cause of constant proliferation of algae and invasive species.  We believe a significant amount of the over 2 billion gallons irrigated in the summer, supposedly on land, ends up in the Laguna, either through runoff or through seepage through the soils.  That may be where most nitrogen AND phosphorus is coming from in that impaired water body. (Special nutrient studies should be done upstream and downstream of Rohnert Park creeks during summer irrigation season as well as any Santa Rosa creeks traversing similar areas to discover extent of the impacts.)

The State Board had such a concern about nitrogen loadings from wastewater irrigated lands, that they required a salt and nutrient management plan to be developed as a requirement for increasing this use.  While such a plan was recently released by the City of Santa Rosa, there has been absolutely no public review, let alone review by Regional Board staff and Board members.  There is concern about the impact of extensive increased irrigation with wastewater that may exacerbate nitrate levels in existing wells and aquifers.  RRWPC believes this change may be back sliding, but we won’t know for sure until there has been adequate Board and public review.  Therefore we believe the change is premature.

We understand that others who know far more than myself will be challenging this change in regulation.  I will not add anything further her now, except to say that with the SNMP process soon to begin, the recent release of the USGS Groundwater Report, the Nutrient Trading Program in possible development, and the TMDL’s in the works over the next year or two,  it’s a shame we couldn’t be safe rather than sorry and continue the No Net Loading of Nitrogen as stated in the last permit (even though not implemented at the time).


Reclamation Operation: Discharge Management Plan:  (page 13)

Draft Permit states that recycled storage and distribution shall be operated as described in Discharge Management Plan, submitted in May, 2011 by the City of Santa Rosa and approved by the Regional Board’s Executive Officer.  RRWPC was not confidant we received the entire document since our version was only 14 pages, and other than a paragraph on irrigation storage, did not describe the operation of the recycled irrigation water component.  For instance, what controls the amount of water that goes to Rohnert Park?  How are priorities set for recycled water distribution when a “dry year” or “critical dry year” is declared by the State Water Board?

In any case, in checking with RB1 staff we learned that Santa Rosa did not consider irrigation a discharge.  Since we thought this was something to be determined by Regional Board, we ask that you declare this document inadequate. (Merritt Smith’s Report covers only Geysers discharge, storage capacity, Windsor usage of Geyser’s pipeline, receiving water quality, monitoring, and river discharge.)

Within the permit, the problem may lie in the definition of terms.  The term ‘reclamation’ is used in the title of this section and in this document and can apply to either river discharge, Geysers reclamation or irrigation reclamation.  Over the years, we have been aware that the common terms to describe wastewater started with treated sewage, went to treated wastewater and then effluent, then to recycled water, and now reclaimed water or reclamation.  While there have been vast improvements to the treatment of the ‘used’ water, this change in verbiage has really seemed like a campaign to get people to accept the application of this used wastewater all over the land, even though only about 125 of approximately 80,000 existing chemicals are regulated, and what is regulated is mostly monitored, and seldom enforced.

In any case, we wonder if this change is meant to only apply to winter discharge and not summer irrigation?  If so, the intent needs to be made more clear.  (We assume that in the City’s eyes, the assumption is that only very minimal amounts of runoff occurs, and therefore sees the nutrient issue as insignificant.)


Reclamation Capacity:

Increased capacity will require an engineering report detailing modifications to the system.  RRWPC requests that detailed analysis of urban irrigation wastewater applications be fully analyzed to assure that all reclamation requirements are followed, monitored, and enforced.  We also request that the definition of ‘acres’ on urban irrigation sites NOT include buildings and impervious surfaces as part of the irrigation area.   We would like agronomic rates defined for each parcel and parcel maps showing specific areas to be irrigated to avoid impervious surfaces and consequent runoff.  We believe that in constrained urban areas, only drip irrigation and very low pressure spray be used to apply wastewater.  We believe it essential that conditions for cutting off water delivery of repeat runoff offenders be spelled out clearly, etc.

Later in these comments, we will provide evidence that indicates that Rohnert Park urban irrigators may be consistently violating requirements clearly defined in the Water Reclamation Requirements and Provisions section of the permit.  In the meantime, Santa Rosa is withdrawing from managing their system, even though they retain responsibility for its failures to function properly.  Rohnert Park is planning to greatly expand irrigation opportunities by the possible addition of 4000 new residential homes.  We will give more details later in these comments.  (Please see attachment # 1  Press Democrat article from 7-1-13 entitled “Rohnert Park: City invests in sewers: $13M line expected to clear way for 4,000 homes, with resultant $88M in fees” by Jeremy Hay.)


Monitoring Program:

In Table E-7 on page E-21, footnote #6, it states that visual observations of recycled water applications should be conducted monthly instead of weekly.  RRWPC believes this change accommodates back sliding.  Frequent observations of actual irrigation would allow more opportunities to note and correct problems. In fact, irrigators are supposed to report spills within 24 hours of discovering them.  Yet in RP, relatively few spills are reported and those that are, indicate very small amounts that may reflect the lack of attentive monitoring of the system.  It seems as though at least weekly monitoring would be a check for that problem.  We would suggest, at a minimum, triggers be set where high applications on urban parcels are monitored more frequently and low users monitored less.  For those who have consistently shown responsibility for their irrigation applications and care for their equipment, the monthly monitoring may be fine.  Since inches per acre are tracked, those with high applications (say, over 18”) should have weekly inspections.

In Rohnert Park many instances of over-irrigation have been photographed and are stored on disk in Regional Board files.  Most of these occurred  in 2010 when complaints were filed on Sonoma State and several Rohnert Park irrigation properties (RRWPC was one of them).   Incidents were documented on multiple days in the same location.  Where there is a history of problems, it is problematic to be loosening monitoring regulations.

We also believe that water application charts submitted with these comments (see below), indicates that, judging from very high applications of wastewater on modest sized parcels, RP is probably continuing to over-irrigate on a regular basis, causing multiple and possibly extensive spills.  Photos showed water being applied indiscriminately and spilling into driveways, parking lots, sidewalks, and of course into storm drains.  These conditions have been documented repeatedly on the same parcels.  The amounts of water used per acre appears to be much greater than that used on agricultural parcels when, depending on the crop, the reverse should be true.


For instance, Cotati/RP School District irrigated 47,660,146 gallons in 2012 on 77 acres (618,963 gallons per acre) and reported only 4 spills for a total of 20 gallons. The Denner property irrigated 485,418 gallons per acre that same year and Denner has been one of the worst offenders over the years in terms of spills and accidents.  He was also paid about $37,000 a year to use the wastewater, yet he applied significantly less wastewater per acre than the school district.  It’s hard to imagine that Rohnert Park school sites (clay soils?) can absorb 25% more water per acre than an agricultural field.

In our visiting many of the school sites, it appeared that about 20% to 25% of the acreage is used for parking, driveways, playgrounds, and sidewalks.  Another percentage is utilized for the school structures themselves.  So in this case, let’s guess that there is really only 50 of 77 acres to be irrigated which would mean that they were applying roughly about a million gallons an acre.  And they are reporting only 20 gallons in spills?  Based on what we have seen occurring and the number of gallons applied this  is difficult to believe.  Other years saw similar amounts of water applied to this location and in one case, a much greater amount (almost 56 MG).

Years ago my granddaughter attended an RP school and I used to see water running all over the place. At the time, I didn’t realize it was wastewater that I was walking in.  I don’t recall seeing signs.  Has anyone at RB1 checked for those signs, especially at schools and parks where children spend great amounts of time?  We would be very concerned about possible exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals including pesticides if the kids come in contact with the wastewater.  In fact, it is outrageous that Department of Health Services considers full contact with tertiary water to be safe.  Children are especially vulnerable to possible effects from even small amounts of these chemicals.

In the urban areas there is far greater risk to the public from contact with the recycled wastewater.  When the water runs off into the creeks, it likely does far more harm than winter discharges as the creeks either have no natural flow or very little in summer and are unable to absorb any of the unregulated toxins in the wastewater or carried off from treated landscapes.

Regional Board files on this and other irrigated properties should have pictures of each urban site and the amount of water that can be applied to the landscape without watering the playground, the sidewalk, the street, etc.  In fact, when acreage is calculated for urban sites, it SHOULD NOT INCLUDE SUCH FACILITIES.

Part of the report needs to include a detailed plan to irrigate each parcel without allowing irrigation wastewater to land on impervious surfaces where it can run off.   If such plans are developed now, I have never seen them.  The whole assumption behind allowing this program is that only VERY minimal amounts would run off.  Without significant penalties and frequent, independent monitoring, there is little motivation to comply.


RRWPC 2010 Complaint regarding Rohnert Park wastewater

When  photographing RP irrigation parcels at the time our complaint was being prepared, almost every school, park, and playground visited and the Community Center had water running off in many directions, often into storm drains.  And it was a recurrent problem upon revisiting sites several times.

Given the information available about low dose effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals, and the refusal of the State to study low dose impacts, what are we doing to the children?  It is unacceptable that this draft permit LOWERS the amount of visual monitoring from weekly to monthly, as if weekly was even enough.  It should be at least two times a week on some of these parcels. In fact, Santa Rosa was so busy tracking RP’s runoff that they are withdrawing from the task of monitoring their operations! (described in more detail below.)

Mountain Shadows Apartments in Rohnert Park irrigates two acres and used from 1.14 mg to 2.76 mg to water their two acres over the last six years.  (Is there a report certifying agronomic compliance on that parcel?)   In 2011 they claimed 4 spills for 40 gallons.  Has anyone ever investigated why a million gallons an acre was being applied to an urban parcel that we assume contains buildings, driveways, parking lots, etc.   When runoff was reported, it was to claim there were only 4 spills at ten gallons each.  It’s very hard to believe that this is accurate.

After RRWPC filed our complaint, Feb. 22, 2010, Order # R1-2010-0027 was filed by your board against the City of Santa Rosa ordering a technical report before April 1, 2010, addressing the following:

  1. 1.     A copy of all administrative procedures, engineering standards, rules, ordinances, inspection criteria, spill reporting guidelines and/or regulations governing the use of recycled water in Rohnert Park and SSU, including user agreements that the City of Santa Rosa has developed, established , and is enforcing to carry out the requirements of Title 22 and the Master Reclamation Permit.  This is intended to demonstrate compliance with Water Reclamation Provision C.1.
  2. 2.     A description of how the City of Santa Rosa is holding SSU responsible for the discharge of recycled water described in the attached Notice of Violation.  This is intended to demonstrate compliance with Water Reclamation Provision C.4.
  3. 3.     A list of all Rohnert Park and SSU recycled water use areas inspected by the City in 2009, the results of the inspections, and the inspection frequency expected for each recycled water use area in 2010.
  4. 4.     Any evidence that he City has of discharges of recycled water into the storm water system or to surface waters since July 2007, and a description of how the City is tracking discharges.
  5. 5.     City response procedures for complaints of discharges of reclaimed water to the storm water system or surface waters.

Included with the Order to the City was a summary of relevant Master Reclamation Permit sections.  While RRWPC did not specifically ask staff for this report, we regularly go through Regional Board files and believe that we would have noted such a report if we saw it.  Some reports we did see contained some of the information noted, but we don’t recall seeing all of it in one document.   We learned only hours before the comment deadline that there is a document in staff’s possession.

Obviously we will not have time to obtain the document and comment on it.  In any case, we want document included in the record.  We have asked staff (Charles Reed) to prepare us a copy and we will submit comments before the August 22nd Board meeting.  We realize that you are have no obligation to accept these comments, but since it is at the Chair’s discretion, we hope he will allow us to do that.

We did find some 2010 Rohnert Park Irrigation Check-off sheets for May through September, 2010. (Attachment #2) Each page ostensibly covered one month’s worth of inspections, and it looked like they only inspected once a month.  (If permit is being changed only now to monthly monitoring, does that mean that RP was out of compliance with their reporting?) The form had a list of irrigation sites and several columns with yes or no checks (irrigation observed, runoff observed, turnout closed) and one column for comments on runoff.

In May inspections were conducted when no irrigation was going on and no runoff occurred.  Yet they noted that standing water was in parking lot at Benicia Park, and “little water in gutter, looks better” for Evergreen School.  There was also storm drain runoff, parking lot and Golf Course Dr. for Foxtail Golf Course.  If they don’t go out when irrigation is occurring, or immediately afterwards, what’s the point.  Also, they were extremely non-specific in their observation notes.

In June there were only three sites irrigating when they went out to check, but six places where runoff was sited, all storm drain runoff.  In July only three were irrigating and there were four runoff instances.  It is important to note that when runoff is still occurring with no irrigation, that’s a sign it’s been going on awhile and the amount would have been greater.  There is no evidence that the person taking down the information had any idea about how much was running off.  In August, only three were irrigating and there was only one runoff observed but two notes on runoff.  In September, no one was irrigating but there were two signs of runoff into storm drains.  There was no attempt to determine the amount of water that may have entered storm drain, what was done to stop it, how long it may have been going on, etc.


B. Recycled Water Production and Use:    (page E-21 & 22)

Total area of application of wastewater/nitrogen will be reported yearly and monitored on monthly basis.  Monthly monitoring of irrigation sites is not adequate when there is a history of using large amounts of wastewater per acre.  These high use urban sites need to be monitored much more frequently.  Again, we request that calculations of “area of application of wastewater” NOT INCLUDE SIDEWALKS, DRIVEWAYS, AND PARKING LOTS on urban parcels.  These calculations should be monitored from time to time by Regional Board staff or some outside party.


Water Reclamation System Reporting:  (Page E-31 & 32)

While reclamation reporting requirements noted on this page appear comprehensive on the surface, it’s not clear they are adequate.  One of the big problems is that there is not enough monitoring required; monthly and annual inspections are inadequate for the determination of runoff events and the amount going down the drain.  Even weekly inspections are suspect if they are not done by an outside party.  (We are concerned that there is too much motivation to ‘fudge’ on the spill estimates.)

Apparently, Santa Rosa, responsible for failures in the irrigation systems, is nonetheless abandoning the effort to oversee RP’s system even while they would be initially responsible for fines and penalties levied against RP. Santa Rosa City staff stated recently in a public meeting that they are withdrawing their management of RP’s system because it is too difficult to keep track of the great amount of over-irrigation occurring there. The ONLY way to assure that reclamation requirements are followed, is by regular and frequent observation of their applications.  The only way these have a chance of being somewhat accurate is if they are done by a third party.

Furthermore, without consequences, such as penalties, fines, and wastewater service cutoffs in the permit, there will be only slight and superficial compliance, particularly with Rohnert Park.  In this case, the Draft permit is instituting many obligations without specific consequences.  Each parcel needs to be analyzed for appropriate water use levels and calculations of agronomic rates.  Heavy spray usage should not occur next to impervious areas and/or near streets.  High pressure sprays should not be allowed at all and especial care should be taken at schools, play grounds, and recreation centers because of the likelihood of exposure by children. There should be predetermined ranges of water use per parcel and when the upper level is reached, there should be cutoffs of the supply. Irrigation inches applied should be carefully spelled out annually with consideration of CIMIS data appropriate to the site.

There are criteria listed in Requirements and Provisions calling for no irrigating during rainy periods and when ground is frozen. These stipulations call for judgments that can easily lead to misunderstandings and inappropriate irrigation.  It would be much clear and easier on everyone to simply have clear dates when irrigation can and cannot occur.  It would be much easier on everyone concerned if no irrigation is allowed at all on urban parcels between November and April.


RRWPC Charts Provide Irrigation Data & Show Excessive Use:

RRWPC has prepared three charts to support our allegations. These charts were compiled from self-monitoring reports on file at the Regional Board.  Based on this information, it is our claim that the system of tracking irrigation applications in Rohnert Park is not working.  We are hopeful that by charting some of the most egregious water uses, it will be easier to understand the scope of the problem.

The first chart is more informational and is entitled Total Irrigated Volume, Cost, & Distribution 2007-2012. (Attachment #3) It shows the amounts of wastewater irrigated between 2007-2012 by the Subregional System.  It indicates that river discharge has been very significantly reduced and in three of the last six years, nothing at all was discharged to the Russian River in the winter discharge season.  It also indicates the amount irrigated and it is clear that the system has gone from a winter discharging facility to a Geysers/summer irrigation application/discharge, with Geysers being year round and using about 2/3 of the wastewater generated.  The chart also shows how much was given out as incentives to use the wastewater (old contracts) and income from paid supply (new contracts).  There are still more incentive dollars going out than income coming in, although the gap is narrowing.  However, from one years to the next, the agricultural parcels are fairly consistent in their use, which is a good sign.

Chart #2 is High Water Use Wastewater Irrigators: 2007-2012 (Attachment #4) and mostly shows three Rohnert Park high users, Sonoma State, and the Denner agricultural property along River Road.  His property contains the confluence of the Laguna and Mark West Creek, several miles upstream of the confluence with the Russian River.  Historically, Denner has been one of the highest water users and irrigates 325 acres.

The chart indicates spills into creeks/storm drains and number of gallons.  The most interesting statistic is comparing water use gallons per acre.  The gallons used by urban Rohnert Park sites are huge compared to the agricultural site receiving incentive dollars.  Certainly these numbers should motivate greater scrutiny into the irrigation practices of Rohnert Park.  It is also noteworthy, and should cause one to be suspicious that with such high water use, RP spills report very small amounts, such as 2-10 gallons for each one.  This should merit investigation and motivate more stringent requirements for irrigation applications in urban areas.

Chart #3 is Annual Depth Applications Over 30”:  2007-2012 (Attachment #5)

Table IV in Santa Rosa’s 2012 Annual Report on page 65 shows the total Inches per Acre applied by year by their irrigators.  (number of acres indicates that RP is included in total)  The total application per acre (from annual self monitoring reports) was 12.9 inches in 2012, 11.29 in 2011, 11.41 in 2010, 11.84 in 2009, 13.43 in 2008, and 13.49 in 2007.   Obviously, anything over 15 inches is high.  Now look at numbers for 2 acre Redwood Creek Apartments in RP.  If you consider that some of those 2 acres may be structures and impervious surfaces, there is even more of a problem.  They irrigated almost 77” in 2007 and their average for the six years was almost 52”.   This is off the charts and should be investigated.  RP and SR should be fined, penalized, and read the riot act for allowing this to go on year after year.

RRWPC examined the 2012 Urban Incidental Runoff Report (Attachment #6).  There were 53 incidents (on ten parcels) reported in Rohnert Park for a total of 1160 gallons spilled during the year.  Santa Rosa had 32 incidents on 16 parcels for a total of 1300 gallons.  Santa Rosa’s pilot project for urban irrigation had added about 20 parcels mostly along, or right near Stony Point Rd. between West College and Hwy. 12, consisting of mostly commercial and residential uses, two municipal sites and one park.

The engineering report (Title 22 Engineering Reports for Santa Rosa’s Urban Water Reuse Program, March 12, 2011 to Catherine Kuhlman and located in Regional Board files) states that most of the irrigation systems are drip but then they state in the Engineering Report for Recycled Water Use (pg. 4) that, “Each recycled water use site is responsible for minimizing overspray and ponding and prohibit runoff from their recycled water irrigation systems.  The City requires that recycled water use site conduct an inspection at least once per year while the recycled water system is in use.”  (emphasis added)  We are thus unclear about the type of irrigation equipment used on these sites.

Furthermore, there are contradictions in the permit about frequency of monitoring of irrigation sites.   (page G-5 states that methods should be utilized  that allow for report of spills within 72 hours of learning of the runoff, and yet other places call for reporting runoff immediately if 50,000 gallons or more, a rather huge amount for an initial report.  Furthermore, if no one has been watching, how can they tell how much as run off?   Also, if sites are not being monitored but for yearly inspections, then how will anyone learn of overflow? (If yearly inspection is different from weekly or monthly inspections, please describe and define.) The same is true for ‘incidental runoff’. Without regular and frequent inspections, spills can go on for many days before detection (and sometimes do).  It seems like, at a minimum sites should be viewed for runoff daily,  after every watering period.

The urban and agricultural parcels are merged in the Summary of Yearly Usage for irrigation water and the parcels are listed differently.  For instance, individual parcel use in Santa Rosa’s Stony Point area are all listed under West College Ave. Pump Station (I am guessing on this.)  Yet on the runoff report, they are listed separately.   This inconsistency makes it impossible to tell how much individual parcels are irrigating in urban Santa Rosa in order to track their progress of compliance.  Santa Rosa needs to list wastewater use on urban parcels separately.


Monitoring Section:  page E-33:

ii.(b)(f): We like that permit is requiring description of agronomic rate compliance.  We request that this be done on a per parcel basis and that no structures or impervious surfaces on urban parcels be considered as part of the acreage.

Page E-38:  on this page it states that for unauthorized discharges of 50,000 gallons or more there should be immediate notice to Regional Board.  For unauthorized discharges of 1,000 gallons to 50,000 gallons as soon as possible but no longer than three days afterwards.  This is very confusing as it seems to be in direct contradiction to the requirement that only incidental discharges are allowed, with the implication they should be of very small amounts.  In an urban setting, 50,000 gallons is a huge amount and should not apply in such areas.  It’s not good in an agricultural area either.

In Santa Rosa’s Recycled Water User’s Guide (page 20) states that the Site Supervisor shall perform ‘regular’ inspections.  In another paragraph it states that these should happen at least once a year.  But then on same page it goes on to say that, “To assure full compliance with the rules and regulations governing the use of recycled water, regular monitoring of any recycled water system is necessary.  For irrigation systems, weekly or twice-monthly inspection is recommended.  Inspection should include site observation for the following types of situations….” And then goes on to mention runoff, leaks, and other potential operational difficulties.

On page 20 they also address the need for careful maintenance of the system, but don’t  go into detail about how often that will occur.  They just refer to ‘regular’ inspections of the system.  If spills are to be caught quickly, we believe that weekly or twice-monthly inspections are not frequent enough.

In different parts of the Draft Permit, the same inconsistencies occur.  This is very confusing.  Furthermore, if inspections only happen two times a month, that means over-irrigation could be occurring over a two week period without being discovered.  This would bound to cause runoff into streams.  I see similar inconsistencies regarding set backs from streams, gutters and street (page G-5 of Reclamation Requirements)  None of the requirements are specific about how that should be accomplished.


Comments on Fact Sheet:

There is duplication here with other sections and I may be guilty of duplicating comments I have made before.

Capacity Expansion (F-5):

I am concerned about any capacity expansion occurring before the Laguna TMDLs are complete and the Salt and Nutrient  Management Plan authorized.  Santa Rosa is a long way from using the capacity they have, let alone needing more.  Their dry weather flows have averaged about 17 mg for ages and their current allotment, according to their General Plan could take them out past 2030.  (In 1985, when the big spill occurred, they were generating about 13 mgd.  They got up to about 19 mgd at one point in the late 1990’s and then implemented an excellent conservation program and began going down.  Since the Geysers Project came on line, they have almost become weather independent.)

They are justifying their request based on the promise that they would use the extra capacity for irrigation.  That is very problematic to me, as it appears they have a ways to go before all the kinks are worked out of their reclamation system.

I am glad that the permit recommends allowing no expansion until an engineering report is submitted demonstrating that the system could accept additional flows without increasing discharges to surface waters.  WE REQUEST A PUBLIC REVIEW PROCESS BE INCLUDED WITH THIS REQUIREMENT.


Antidegradation Policy (F-16):

I know this comment will be challenged, but I believe, based on all the observations listed above, that summer irrigation is ending up in the Laguna and tributaries and causing degradation.  While the requirements to prevent this from happening are extensive, the monitoring and reporting are inadequate.  The evidence of over irrigation has been extensive and we have a long way to go before asserting that no degradation is occurring as a result of this program!

The trick part of this is the reference to the ‘permitted discharge’.  Since recycled water doesn’t count as a discharge, it’s not considered to come under the same requirements.  Does that mean that anti-degradation isn’t enforced on irrigation projects?

Does anti-backsliding only refer to effluent limits?  The change on nitrogen limit seems like a manipulation in order to claim the change is not really a change.  Please see comments on pages 2-3 of this comment letter.

We continue to make the case that the incidental runoff issue is a problem.  We believe that there are indications that more extensive runoff is occurring than is being reported.  We believe reporting requirements are ambiguous and often inadequate and that monitoring and enforcement are very weak.  Most of what has been declared in writing is probably not being carried out in real time conditions, with the result of further degradation to our streams.


CEC’s Monitoring (F-21)

Our biggest issue here, as fully described in our original comments, is that due to what we believe is the misguided judgment of the Scientific Panel, endocrine disrupting chemicals will not be monitored in irrigation water.  They assumed that low doses of these chemicals are safe, where many studies have shown this is not the case.  Please see our original comment letter to read our concerns.


BMPs and Self Monitoring (F-68):

Water Reclamation Requirements and Provisions:

This section states that BMPs in Santa Rosa’s Recycled Water User’s Guide are adequate to reduce severity and incidences of runoff.  This may be true, but we must not forget the possibility that they may not be carried out and inadequate reporting, should it occur, might not indicate problems in a timely manner.


Santa Rosa-Rohnert Park Wholesale-Retail Recycled Water Agreement:

At the July 18th Board of Public Utilities Meeting, they had a Study Session on Santa Rosa-Rohnert Park Wholesale-Retail Recycled Water Agreement. The power point presentation (Attachment #7) states that the new agreement would take effect, if approved, on March 28th, 2015.  Rohnert Park would then be considered the retailer and sell recycled water to RP customers and end users.

RP would own, operate and maintain distribution system.  They would read meters and bill customers, they would conduct inspections and ensure regulatory compliance.  The Subregional will provide training to Rohnert Park and Rohnert Park customers must comply with NPDES Permit, all recycled Water Rules and Regulation and Recycled Water User’s Guide.

Santa Rosa staff and legal counsel agreed that Santa Rosa and Subregional system would be ultimately responsible for any failures on Rohnert Park’s part, including fines and penalties.  The question is whether this changes anything regarding terms of this permit?

One of the issue we see is the multi-layered approach to enforcement of recycled water requirements.  The Regional Board oversees compliance with the Permit, but relies on affidavits from Santa Rosa officials to certify accuracy of reports.  The responsible staff sign off based on reports from their lead staff.  So far, it is not known whether any of these people actually go on site and check irrigation practices directly.  Then at each site there is an authorized person in charge, who signs off on reports saying no, (or some) spills have occurred. But that person may not have been present when the problem occurred (if one did), since it was probably a workman or landscape contractor employee that actually did the work or cause the problem.

In the documents we have studied to prepare for these comments, mostly found in Regional Board files, we don’t recall coming across an on-the-ground detailed explanation for how irrigation amounts would be determined and implemented for each individual parcel, and what problems might be anticipated and how they will be dealt with in order to prevent incidental runoff.  We don’t know how often these worker will be on site or what kind of tasks they complete when they are there. There should be detailed reports for each site with maps showing location of sidewalks, driveways, street and drains, and any other impervious surfaces available to the public.  There should be standardized forms for filling out this information and most importantly, they should estimate water needs, when applications will occur, how they will be controlled, what kind of equipment will be used to irrigate, etc.


Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this document.





Brenda Adelman


List of Attachments:

  1. Rohnert Park: City ‘Invests’ in Sewers: $13M Line Expected to Clear Way for 4000 Homes, with Resultant $88M in Fees, Jeremy Hay, Press Democrat, 7-1-2013
  2. Rohnert Park Irrigation Checks: May, 2010 through September, 2010
  3. Total Irrigated Volume, Cost, & Distribution 2007-2012, Brenda Adelman
  4. High Water Use Wastewater Irrigators: 2007-2010, Brenda Adelman
  5. Annual Depth Applications Over 30”: 2007-2010,  Brenda Adelman
  6. Santa Rosa’s Annual Subregional Water Reclamation System Report for 2012:  Reclamation Operations Report, 2012 Urban Incidental Runoff, page 76
  7. Santa Rosa-Rohnert Park Wholesale-Retail Recycled Water Agreement, Board of Public Utilities Meeting, Study Session, July 18, 2013