November 21, 2013
Matt St. John: Executive Officer
North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board
5550 Skylane Blvd. #A
Santa Rosa, CA 95403
Attention: Charles Reed
Delivered in person at Board Meeting
RRWPC ADDENDUM #2 on:
Waste Discharge Requirements and Master Reclamation Permit for the City of Santa Rosa Subregional Water Reclamation System: Sonoma County
ORDER NO. R1-2013-0001
NPDES NO. CA0022764
WDID NO. 1B830990SON
Dear Mr. St. John, Mr. Reed, Chair Noren and Regional Board Members:
REPEATED RUNOFF BY IRRIGATORS CONTINUES YEAR AFTER YEAR
In my July 22nd comments, I made the case that numbers presented in the quarterly, annual, and other reports, provide evidence that numerous urban landscape irrigators are repeatedly cited for multiple and even frequent incidents of irrigation runoff. There is no indication in any of these reports of what action may have been taken to stop these violations which we just learned have been going on at least since 2005. (Some irrigators have been cited for irrigation runoff as a result of complaints, but none, to our knowledge, cited as a result of official reports.)
Two examples found in annual reports covering 2010 through 2012. The Spreckles Community Center in Rohnert Park had 27 runoff incidents in 2010, 20 incidents in 2011, and 10 incidents in 2012. Prior years had spills as well although they are not listed here. Redwood Creek Apartments, also in Rohnert Park, had a significant number of repeated spills. In 2010 they had 19 spills, 18 in 2011, and 12 in 2012.
While the Water User’s Guide says that shutting off repeat offenders would only be done as a last resort, we believe that Santa Rosa has never cut anyone off. We have heard them state that they probably never will. Furthermore, while these numbers appeared in annual reports, neither Santa Rosa nor the Regional Board, to the best of our knowledge, ever penalized anyone for multiple DISCHARGES.
SPILL AMOUNTS IMPOSSIBLE TO IDENTIFY CORRECTLY
While the number of reported gallons spilled were not significant, there is no way to ascertain whether those numbers are accurate and to what extent flows may have involved discharge to a waterway. Irrigation takes place at night, visual inspections occur once a week at the most, and it is not known what efforts were made to determine the length of time the spill had been taking place. It is also possible that visual inspections are cursory and spills may have occurred prior or subsequent to the inspection.
While the Guide calls for a designated staff person to be available 24/7 to deal with all emergencies, in most cases the staff person is responsible for multiple sites. In fact, 2/3 of Rohnert Park irrigation sites are separate public facilities and we believe, has one supervisor and two employees to cover about 20 parcels throughout the City. It is unclear how compliance is at ALL times, when sites are inspected no more than once a week and workers can’t be everywhere at once.
Often the amounts of runoff identified are in the under ten gallon range on small parcels that irrigate a million plus gallons per acre a season. This is suspiciously low and causes us to believe that these amounts are estimates based on a very brief surveillance of the immediate situation. Furthermore, they are to look to Guide for guidance on preventing runoff, but the Guide is usually vague and definitely not site specific. These apparent contradictions need to be clarified.
ARE AGRONOMIC RATES UTILIZED IN URBAN AREAS?
Supposedly the City (Santa Rosa) controls the amount of water delivered to irrigators. We imagine that at some point a report was written to address agronomic rates on individual parcels. Attachment G calls for operations and management plan to be developed (not sure when) describing proper irrigation amounts and applications. If there is some other document, we don’t know if it exists already or if it is in planning stages. In either case, a more detailed plan is needed to spell out how excessive and repeated runoff will be avoided. We don’t think the Guide is adequate.
We had been through City files at Regional Board offices and never saw agronomic analyses for individual parcels at that location. Water user contracts appear to say nothing about calculating and/or utilizing agronomic rates. We saw nothing about agronomic applications in Recycled Water User’s Guide (Guide) either.
There is a list of all irrigators and the amount they irrigate at the back of Attachment G in the current permit. We assume these allocated amounts were based on studies of agronomic rates for individual properties. Large agricultural parcels growing pasture or fodder crops use far less water per acre than the urban landscape irrigators use. We had been under the impression that fodder crops use large amounts of water. Furthermore, much of the urban landscape borders on impervious surfaces and wherever we have viewed urban runoff, it has involved water running over those surfaces, and into streets and storm drains. (One copy of pictures at bus stop submitted.)
Newly required stream setback designations in new permits for irrigation applications that will protect water quality, should be applied to all permits. If this is not feasible, at a minimum they should be applied to renewed permits as well.
It was stated that technical reports were required to be approved to demonstrate water is being applied in a manner to protect water quality. (E.O.’s summary report on page 3 states that Regional Board relies heavily on the Recycled Water User’s Guide to implement agronomic rates and minimize runoff.) Santa Rosa complained that over regulation discourages uses of wastewater for irrigation. Most oversight has been left in the hands of the irrigators and Regional Board staff play too minimal a role.
The Guide is vague on environmental protection while more focused on Title 22 requirements. The requirements listed in Attachment G are vague enough to allow for weak enforcement which accommodates Santa Rosa’s concern about regulatory overload. There is a need for a monitoring program that identifies the true amount of runoff. There is a need for enforcement against repeat offenders, including turning off the irrigation spout! There is a need for specific agronomic application reporting and enforcement that indicates amount to be applied next to amount actually applied. When a irrigator applies one or two million gallons per acre, there needs to be full justification for that amount.
RECORDING BASIS FOR RUNOFF CHANGED
On page 17 (#68) of the Response to Comments, it states that, “The permit section has been revised to require reporting of runoff incidents only when the runoff occurrence does not meet the conditions of incidental runoff, which would be a violation of permit conditions.” This means that the reporter/investigator would need to know whether there had been prior runoff that would change the runoff incident from incidental runoff to an illegal discharge. It seems as though many instances of runoff could be mistakenly omitted if the person fails to remember what went on before. Or if the person is new and/or inadequately trained, this can cause many incidents to go unreported. We strongly believe that all runoff should be noted.
Thank you for the opportunity to add these comments to the record.