RRWPC Comments on MS4 BMP’s, 12-11-2013

Mona Dougherty
Colleen Hunt
North Coast Regional Board
Sent Via Email

Dec. 11, 2013

Dear Mona and Colleen:

This letter comprises our comments on Santa Rosa’s BMP Plan for Non-Storm Water Discharges as required by MS4 Permit No. R1-2009-0050. I have not had time to reread requirements in the Permit for this program.

These comments just cover that part of the document regarding irrigation runoff, which includes the general statement on page one and Item #13-14 on pages 9-11, with an emphasis on ‘urban setting’. We don’t have adequate expertise on most of the other topics to give meaningful input, although some of our concerns about irrigation may have application in other circumstances.

In general, I don’t have a problem with most Best Management Practices (BMPs) described in Oct., 2013 document. But I don’t think they are nearly adequate standing alone either, if they are to achieve the goal for which they were required, protecting water quality in our creeks and streams.

I am attaching what I believe are pertinent comments submitted on this topic for Santa Rosa’s NPDES Permit and were recently reviewed. They expound on several of the issues mentioned here in more detail. Also included is half a report written to RRWPC supporters recently about our concerns on this topic. Further, a few additional BMP recommendations are added at the end that I hope will strengthen this document.

Spill Response Program:
This is a good idea provided that it’s well publicized. I’d be curious to see how many calls they have processed. In regard to wastewater, most people don’t know it’s wastewater and don’t know it’s not supposed to run off, and so I’m guessing that they don’t report it. If something is obviously dirty and funky looking, they (general public) would be more likely to do so. Unfortunately, potable water and wastewater look exactly the same and people simply won’t be alarmed when they see it. The signs they put up (8” x 4”) are ridiculously small and I even missed seeing them when I was looking for them.

Relationship and program operation with RP unclear:
One of the major concerns we have is the interrelationship between Santa Rosa and Rohnert Park in regards to the irrigation program that includes implementation of these BMPs. Santa Rosa is the permit holder for their Reclamation System and therefore ultimately responsible for the implementation of Rohnert Park’s 31 urban irrigation sites. Santa Rosa is in the process of divorcing themselves of oversight of RP’s system, even while they are the permit holders responsible. I don’t understand how this will work in reference to their responsibilities and it should be fully examined by your agency.

Santa Rosa is going to sell the water to RP and we believe RP is going to take over oversight of the system, including enforcement. This sounds like a legal quagmire that needs to be aired in the light of day. These BMPs should spell out exactly who will do what. I wonder how RP sites can come under Santa Rosa’s Water Waste Ordinance. If not that, then what? I don’t think that RP has such an ordinance. And even if they did, could it be legally valid if Santa Rosa is the responsible permit holder? Furthermore, mention is made of Regional Board Permits for all irrigators. Do those exist now? I don ‘t recall ever seeing them in the files.

In the section on spill response program, page one claims in #d. “Progressive enforcement procedure for repeat offenders.” In fact, this is strongly needed for the irrigation program. A graduated range of penalties needs to be developed for repeat offenders and sites that overuse wastewater, even where it doesn’t run off.

In item #f., monthly meetings are a regular part of the program, but it doesn’t look like Rohnert Park is involved.

Item #3 mentions that there are ongoing water conservation and recycled water inspection programs that investigate and respond to calls concerning water waste, irrigation overspray, runoff, and overwatering. This program seems rather passive. We believe a strong effort needs to be made to publicize the program.

#13: Reclaimed landscape irrigation runoff in the urban setting:
The first bullet in the section claims circumstances under which irrigation is allowed: “All feasible alternatives to discharge of non-storm water flow have been considered, including discharging to sewer, and are not possible.”

‘Feasible alternatives’ needs clarity and definition. It appears that this statement, in the case of irrigation, is inappropriately used. The whole point of irrigation is to allow wastewater to flow on the land in order to offset potable water use. It doesn’t make sense to be used in the current context.

Confusing directions on inspections:
On page 20 of the Recycled Water User’s Guide, which is the City’s bible for the program, in one paragraph it states that weekly or twice monthly inspections are recommended, but on the same page in the margin it says that, “The City requires that recycled water Users conduct an inspection at least one per year while the recycled water system is in use.” The new permit says that inspections don’t have to report runoff if they don’t see a problem, but there is no requirement that the inspection occur when the system is in operation. It is highly unlikely that a spill would be found when the system is turned off.

Many Rohnert Park sites experience repeated and reported instances of irrigation runoff for which no action has been taken of which we are aware. In the irrigation guidelines it states that repeated runoff is not allowed, let alone allowing it to occur for years on end at the same parcels. This fact indicates that whatever Santa Rosa has been doing, it does not work in Rohnert Park.

(We are not sure it works in SR either. In 2009 RRWPC photographed many pictures of irrigation runoff on Stony Point. We wonder if they just changed the time they irrigate; we have not noticed any signs of runoff since. Yet two months ago, a friend sent me a picture of a large pool of water at the bus stop across from the Utilities Building that had been inundated many times in 2009. We entered it into the record with our Permit comments.)

In addition, some of those same sites having repeated runoff, also use huge amounts of water on relatively small parcels. We have documented that where some of the heaviest agricultural water users use less than 500,000 gallons per acre each season, some of the RP apartment buildings use just under or over a million. One site used 2 million gallons per acre one season. We are told these sites irrigate at agronomic rates, but we haven’t seen the reports. If that is the case, the numbers are hard to believe however. (We have asked the City to show us the documents and they are in the process of preparing them. We haven’t seen much information on this in RB1 files.)

It is unclear if all items on page 10 apply to Rohnert Park sites as well as Santa Rosa’s. As mentioned extensively in our attached comments, if Santa Rosa has adequate BMP’s, why did we identify so many runoff and extensive water use problems?

Furthermore, we had many problems with the Permit as well. We do not feel our concerns were given adequate attention, and certain weaknesses were built into the requirements that we have serious reservations about, such as worker on site can make judgment call as to weather runoff is a violation or not, and need not report if he/she judges it’s not.

RRWPC doesn’t consider itself particularly talented in recommending and/or developing BMP’s, but here are a few we offer that would be extremely helpful if fully implemented:
• Sites that have repeatedly over irrigated, even with small amounts (which we believe are really under reporting of larger events) at least two times a season, should have their permit renewed whereby new requirements kick in (such as set backs) and they are charged for permit review which should include an analysis of agronomic rates.
• The same should hold true for urban sites that use more than 500,000 gallons a season (usually June through September) Site should be reevaluated for agronomic rates that are applied. Also all new sites should be evaluated for three years in a row to determine stable agronomic rate.
• Special conditions should exist for sites within 100’ of a creek or water way.
• Sites that use pesticides and/or fertilizer should have special analysis to assure those contaminants will not be running off into streams.
• Drip irrigation should be encouraged, if not required for new installations and for repeat offenders if they want to keep irrigating.
• Repeat offenders should be cut off permanently after a total of 5 runoff reports/incidents.
• Any irrigation inspection should be conducted when system is running.

I’m sorry I didn’t have more time to work on this. We hope these comments and the attachments are helpful. Please contact me with any questions.


Brenda Adelman