RRWPC Comments Renewal of N.P.D.E.S. Permit Russian River County Sanitation District, 1-27-14

Regional Water Quality Control Board
(Delivered by Email)

To: Cathleen A. Goodwin
Water Resource Control Engineer

Subject: Renewal of N.P.D.E.S. Permit
Russian River County Sanitation District and Sonoma County Water Agency
Russian River Wastewater Treatment Facility, NPDES No. CA0024058
WDID No. 1B820450SON

Dear Ms. Goodwin:

Introduction and background:
I am submitting these comments on the Draft Permit for RRCSD on behalf of Russian River Watershed Protection Committee (RRWPC). We are a nonprofit corporation working in the public interest since 1980 to protect water quality in the lower Russian River. We represent the concerns of hundreds of property owners (ratepayers), recreationists, and business people in our area. As you know, we have provided testimony on the RRCSD wastewater disposal system over that entire time.

RRWPC provided extensive comments to the State Water Board on the Recycled Water Policy and Recycled Water Policy Amendment. We also provided similar comments to the North Coast Regional Board on the MS4 Permit as it deals with ‘incidental runoff’ as well as the North Coast Basin Plan Amendment dealing with the same topic. We commented extensively, as you are aware, on the Reclamation Permit portion of Santa Rosa’s new NPDES Permit.

We commented to the State Legislature on AB 2398 and 803 (State recycled water bills). Many RRWPC writings on the topic of recycled water can be found on our website at www.rrwpc.org We also commented recently on the State’s proposed reorganization that will merge the State’s Drinking Water Program under the State Water Board. One of their major goals is to not only expand wastewater irrigation programs around the State, but also explore the feasibility of implementing toilet to tap technologies. We have not opposed the reorganization (at this time), rather indicated that the merger should be implemented in a way that assures adequate protection of the environment, especially in regards to runoff (whether incidental or not).

Our greatest concern, voiced regularly at Regional and State Board meetings, is the specter of endocrine disruption and the damage it is doing to the health of our environment, human, and wildlife health. (The San Francisco Medical Society devoted a whole issue of their monthly journal, San Francisco Medicine, to this topic.

The knowledge being uncovered in the last twenty years is monumental, and it is now known that serious harmful effects can be found at very low exposures. The implications of increased birth defects and other problems has been growing exponentially. And yet, the burgeoning science on this is being minimized and ignored by the State in its rush to reuse wastewater and allow it back into our drinking supply. It’s like the hot potato being tossed around; who can expand the drinking water supply with wastewater before being caught creating a cancer epidemic? Even obesity and diabetes are being linked to these toxins, not to mention heart disease, birth defects, autism, lowered sperm counts, etc. The list goes on…. We should be worshiping at the feet of the scientists feeding us this information, but instead they are being almost ignored by the powers that be.

Harm resulting from low dose exposures is non-controversial……
In the case of the endocrine system, according to Dr. Vandenberg, lead author of an important study released in March, 2012, and the Endocrine Society, it is well established that exposure to low doses of E.D.’s is harmful to humans and wildlife. In fact, the most harmful exposures are usually the smallest ones. In the San Francisco magazine, Dr. Vandenberg states in her opening paragraph: (page 15) “Virtually all safety standards for chemical exposures are determined through a process that assumes that high-dose testing will reveal relevant risks because “the dose makes the poison.” For many well-studied contaminants this is a reasonable assumption, but for compounds that behave like hormones, it is demonstrably false. The public health implications of this conclusion are enormous, because it means that many—likely dozens, plausibly hundreds, possibly thousands—of today’s chemical safety standards are too weak by orders of magnitude.”

She further explains: “Low doses are often within the range that traditional toxicological testing has determined to be “safe.”

“The question is whether EDCs are safe at the doses the typical person experiences. To determine what doses are safe, regulatory toxicology usually starts by administering large doses of a chemical to animals, identifying the highest dose at which no effect is found, and then extrapolating downward to calculate a safe dose. Those “safe” doses are rarely tested. Yet EDCs, like hormones, defy the toxicological dogma: Low doses can have effects that are not expected from high-dose exposures. In fact, these effects can be observed at doses orders of magnitude beneath the highest dose that produces no effect using traditional approaches. The mechanisms by which chemicals cause high-dose effects usually are completely unrelated to mechanisms that EDC’s employ at low doses, and the effects of high and low doses can be on completely different end points.”

While the long established and prestigious Endocrine Society has long recognized that very low dose exposures to endocrine disrupting chemicals (sometimes in the parts per billion range) often causes an extensive range of problematic health effects in humans and wildlife, the regulatory community, bent on maintaining conventional risk assessment analysis, usually does not acknowledge this fact. In regard to this policy, we have repeatedly heard that more study needs to be done, although funding is seldom provided to accomplish it. The current body of scientific evidence, exemplified by the 80 page study on low dose impacts is perfectly clear.

Furthermore, the comments of the director of the National Institute of Health and Department of Health and Human Services, Linda S. Birnbaum, who states in Environmental Health Perspectives Online March 14, 2012: Low internal doses of endocrine disruptors found in typical human populations have been linked to obesity, infertility, neurobehavioral disorders, and immune dysfunction, among others. She also states the following in a Frontline interview called “Fooling with Nature” in 1998: “Now, we’ve known that there are naturally occurring plant estrogens that, in fact, can impact reproduction. They can impact development. Farmers have known for years that you don’t yet let the sheep into the clover because it can be a real problem with their ability to reproduce.”

RRCSD’s Draft NPDES Permit: General
We have read the entire draft permit. We believe that staff made a good faith effort to address most key issues for a system that has many inherent problems. These result from a challenging local environment and limited ratepayer funds to make expensive infrastructure repairs and expansion of inadequate components such as storage. We praise the Board and SCWA for addressing the coliform problem with a new disinfection system, and nutrient issues with new treatment processes that will minimize dangerous nitrates and phosphorus. But obviously there are remaining issues to be addressed, the major ones being storage and irrigation.
Because the golf course ended up using only half of the design capacity for irrigation, the system relied on expansion of the Burch property around the Treatment Plant for irrigation area. This parcel historically had problems with over saturation (especially in lower half) and possible leakage into the high groundwater. This potential leakage would be a serious concern if new storage is built on site.

Also, because of the system’s flooding potential, expansion of planned 3-5 mg storage would be inadequate to fully address excessive winter flows during flood events. The permit states that there shall be no flows over 3.5 million gallons, but fails to mention that 10 million went through the plant in 1995, the year SCWA took over management of the system About two years ago, at a tour of the plant, I heard a worker saying that in the New Years Day flood of 2006, there was 8 mg going through the plant. We believe that this draft permit fails to address the potential reality of a repeat event, even if it’s not anytime soon.

We think it would have been appropriate to spell out historical problems at plant since 1995, but while it was alluded to here and there, a history was not included. Such an introduction could give a sense of how far system has come on improving past problems and how far it has to go. (We are thinking of a few paragraphs giving the environmental and community setting, both in time and in regards to place and key issues over the years. It concerns us that these things may have been intentionally left out, if the State’s goal is to make permits more uniform Statewide. If this is that case, how can CEQA be complied with since I believe that it requires details of the project setting?

In addition, some better and more specific maps would be helpful. We were particularly interested in the proposed location for the downstream monitoring point. It does not appear as though that has been changed, which is a problem. The downstream monitoring point had been located 300’ downstream from the discharge. This is a huge mixing zone. I had been under the impression that that would be changed. Please correct me if wrong.

Another general, but extremely important issue is that in regards to toxics, this and all other State permit are not comprehensive in this regard.. The public tends to assume that government and regulatory bodies are fully looking out for our well being, yet fails to consider that there are roughly 80,000 chemicals on the market and only 125 are monitored (inadequately in our view). We all know that this represents only a tiny portion of the toxic loads in our waterways.

Also, what is not clearly stated, and which we will discuss further, is the point of which irrigated wastewater is not ‘recycled water’ and becomes a waste under Clean Water Act. It is our understanding that any runoff not specifically coming under the reclamation definitions, is an illegal discharge. In other words, irrigators with multiple instances of runoff, even when claimed to be minimal, are out of compliance with their permit. This needs to be clarified in this permit. I am enclosing a copy of my comments on Santa Rosa’s draft permit to buffer my comment here.

Furthermore, we have no idea of the potentially harmful interactions of those substances in combination. Given that this facility is in a recreational area it would be particularly important to control runoff, as it not only is likely to contain remnant toxins after the treatment process, it is also possible to carry toxins from the ground (such as pesticides) into the waterway when it runs off. The likelihood of irrigation runoff is greatly exacerbated through expanded recycled wastewater use. As this wastewater enters our waterways at greater frequency and amounts, harmful effects will be much more likely in drought related lowered flows. Toxins will bio-accumulate and aquatic life, upon which salmonids feed, can be heavily impacted. None of this is described in this document, although it claims to be CEQA compliant.

RRCSD’s Draft NPDES Permit: Questions and Comments
We went through the body of the permit (pages 1-24) page by page and typed up questions and comments as we went. We include those here. Then we went through taking notes on more extensive issues, particularly those concerning the Reclamation Permit. We will attach our comments on Santa Rosa’s recently approved permit, because many of the issues are the same. It appears that staff relied on “Santa Rosa’s Recycled Water User’s Guide”, Title 22, State’s Recycled Water Policy, and similar documents that RRWPC had commented extensively on for other purposes.
Finally, in most cases we have not tried to address many of the technical issues, most of which are outside our area of expertise, although we are quite concerned about cutbacks in monitoring requirements. We just don’t have expertise available to challenge it.

One issue of great concern to us is the determination of hardness and relation to WER analysis, especially in reference to Copper. Salmonids have extremely sensitive olfactory systems and it appears that the numbers mentioned in the permit are much higher than they can tolerate. I have attached article entitled, “SUBLETHAL EFFECTS OF COPPER ON COHO SALMON: IMPACTS ON NONOVERLAPPING RECEPTOR PATHWAYS IN THE PERIFPHERAL OLFACTORY NERVOUS SYSTEM, by David H. Baldwin, et.al.

The abstract states: “Increases in copper impaired the neurophysiological response to all odorants within 10 minutes of exposure. The inhibitory effects of copper (1.0-20.0 ug/L) were dose-dependent and they were not influenced by water hardness…..examination of these data indicates that copper is broadly toxic to the salmon olfactory nervous system. Consequently, short-term influxes of copper to surface waters may interfere with olfactory-mediated behaviors that are critical for the survival and migratory success of wild salmonids.”

The study summarizes:
In summary, we have shown that transient exposures to copper significantly impair the sensory physiology of juvenile coho salmon. These exposures are typical of copper concentrations that have been measured in surface waters from urban and agricultural watersheds. The sublethal thresholds for cop- per toxicity are very similar for different olfactory pathways. Therefore, copper may interfere with many (or all) olfactory- mediated behaviors in coho that cannot avoid storm water and other non–point-source inputs to salmon habitat. More work is needed to define the behavioral consequences of this sensory neurotoxicity. In summary, we have shown that transient exposures to copper significantly impair the sensory physiology of juvenile coho salmon. These exposures are typical of copper concentrations that have been measured in surface waters from urban and agricultural watersheds. The sublethal thresholds for cop- per toxicity are very similar for different olfactory pathways. Therefore, copper may interfere with many (or all) olfactory- mediated behaviors in coho that cannot avoid storm water and other non–point-source inputs to salmon habitat. More work is needed to define the behavioral consequences of this sensory neurotoxicity.

RRWPC Notes on RRCSD’s NPDES Permit:

Discharge limit:
Unclear (p.6 bottom) what meters they use. Says: “Daily flow shall be based on flow meter comparisons reasonably read….” We assume this refers to Hacienda flow meter, but it would be good to state that here.

If discharge limit is 1% of flow: as measured at Hacienda and if flow is 90 cfs (on 1-24-14) that would convert to .9 cfs. How many gallons does this represent? Given this current serious drought, and assuming that wastewater is accumulating in storage ponds, how much time under these conditions (or under even lower flows) will ponds start to overtop? Will winter irrigation be allowed and/or adequate to release enough wastewater so ponds don’t overtop? We have had freezing conditions many nights, so it appears that this remedy might not happen. No mention is made in draft permit (that I recall) of global warming or drought and it seems as though scenarios should be developed and planned for.

How can you know if bioassays are being thrown out in order to achieve better number and be in compliance? (p. 7-bottom)

Interim effluent limits: why is interim limit (maximum daily) on nitrates much higher for discharge than land application (39 vs 20)?

Recycling requirements (p. 9):
Storage Ponds:
Construction must protect groundwater and plans for new storage must demonstrate before construction that groundwater will be protected. This is good, but can you provide more detail, such as give some examples of how they might be protected?

Surface water limits:
(p. 13) limits pesticides (#15) How will this be monitored? Do you (they) have any way of knowing what pesticides are being used and where they are using them?

Groundwater Limitations:
Numerous requirements (bottom: p.13), but how will you know if they are being fulfilled? Will groundwater be monitored for chemicals and other properties?

Reporting requirements for irrigation runoff is within 24 hours of discovery: (p.14) How does this mesh with requirement on page E-23 that spills of 50,000 gallons or more of tertiary wastewater, require immediate notification, implying that under 50,000 gallons does not?

303(d) (p.14):
TMDLs and waste load allocations coming for: nitrogen, phosphorus, dissolved oxygen, sediment, and temperature. Is this the case for the lower river since the lower river is not impaired for DO? Also, why was bacteria left off?

Monitoring of toxins/TRE triggers (p. 16)

Recycled Water BMP: Operations and Monitoring Plan
Written plan to be submitted that will be “….implemented to achieve efficient irrigation at its recycled water use site(s) to ensure that hydraulic and nutrient agronomic rates are not exceeded. The Plan shall include, where appropriate, the BMPs identified in Water Recycling Requirement B.12 of Attachment G.”

Will this plan fall under CEQA? Will the Executive Officer simply approve this plan or will it be open to public review? If the answer to these questions is “no”, then how can this permit be CEQA compliant if a significant piece of the Reclamation Permit will occur AFTER authorization of this permit?

Pollutant Minimization Program (p.17): (priority pollutants)
Mercury has been identified as a serious problem for Laguna and Russian River and needs to be addressed. (I believe Laguna is listed on 303(d) for Mercury.) We hope list will include Mercury in all forms.

RRWPC Settlement with SCWA on Estuary Project calls for sediment monitoring in Estuary of following chemicals (priority pollutants on pg. 21) to assess potential risk to benthic organisms from toxic pollutants.

Samples to be analyzed for the following analytes are those listed in Attachment A of the Water Quality Plan: Total Organic Carbon, Percent fines, Cadmium, Copper, Lead, Mercury, Zinc, Acenaphthene, Anthracene, Biphenyl, Naphthalene, 2,6-dimethylnaphthalene, Fluorene, 1- methylnaphthlene, 2-methylnaphthlene, 1-methylphenathrene, Phenanthrene, Benzo(a)anthracene, Benzo(a)pyrene, Chrysene, Dibenz(a,h)anthracene, Fluoranthene, Perylene, Pyrene, Alpha chlordane, Gamma chlordane, Trans nonachor, Dieldrin, o,p – DDE, o,p – DDD, o,p – DDT, p,p – DDE, p,p – DDD, p,p – DDT, and PCB (18 congeners).
Have all these toxins been analyzed at least twice in RRCSD wastewater to determine which might be a problem with further testing to follow for those that are found?

Recycled Water monitoring (E-11 to E-14):
Table E-6a: footnote #5: “….inspection frequency shall be increased for use sites with a history of non-compliance with water recycling requirements established in this Order.” RRWPC strongly supports this measure and wonder why it was not adopted for Santa Rosa permit? Quarterly reports shall include daily irrigation application rates. (Rates should be for each irrigation parcel.)

There are many requirements for irrigation, but isn’t most irrigation under the control of SCWA on the Burch property? In the case of the golf course, wouldn’t that be under the control of one property owner? How many property owners in the district are responsible for complying with irrigation requirements?

How is compliance with agronomic rates determined? What is the program in place to address this? How are agronomic rates determined on Burch property? (I assume that golf course would be careful since they are dealing with the public. For that reason they lowered wastewater amount they apply to half of what was proposed by engineers in original project proposal.)

Compliance determination (pg. E-17 #7)

“…..Permittee shall be deemed out of compliance with effluent limitations if the concentration of the priority pollutant in the monitoring sample is greater than the effluent limitation and greater than or equal to the reporting level (RL).” Does this mean that the reporting level is also the level of compliance, or limit, above which is considered a violation?

Water Recycling system: Suggestions
• Inspections need to occur when system is running, otherwise won’t know if it’s working properly or whether runoff is occurring.
• Impervious surfaces need to be identified. Where impervious surface is near a drain or waterway, there needs to be setback.
• Sites with multiple runoff incidents need to be inspected regularly and water should be turned off after three incidents within two month period or less.
• Annual reports on agronomic rate compliance need to give details on types of plants, and details of conditions affecting plant uptake. This can be a separate report.
• Report of monthly irrigation amounts by each irrigator and/or location.
• Drip irrigation should be strongly recommended. With spray, there is no controlling how far it will go in the air. Toxins have been found in remote areas of the Artic and had to have traveled thousands of miles. This never gets discussed, but that spray can go long distances and affect people and animals if the wind is blowing.
• For these reasons, we recommend a 200’ setback on the lower Burch property and anywhere on the golf course that is close to the river. There are many people recreating on the river in summer and they need to be protected from spray. (I realize that only new parcels will need to comply with setback requirement, but SCWA is running irrigation program for system and can implement set back now! Also, do they run spray on golf course when people are playing? That seems quite risky to me and should not be allowed.

Contradiction: spill notifications
Page E-22: E 1 calls for notification of spills that may cause hard to environment to be reported within 24 hours
Pg. E-23: with spills of 50,000 gallons or more of tertiary wastewater, immediate notification is necessary
For spills of 1,000 gallons or more, but less than 50,000 gallons, notification must be within three days

Comments on Fact Sheet:
Facility Description (p.F-5)

Third Unit Processes Project was supposed to keep Treatment Plant in compliance during all flow scenarios. That did not occur in the New Year’s Day storm of 2006 when the system started breaking down when river got to 42’. While the Treatment Plant is supposed to accommodate up to 3.5 mgd over a three day period, I believe a worker at the plant told some people during a tour that flows got to 8 mgd during that storm. (In 1995, flows got to 10 mg.) And that was not the worst storm on record (1986: river got to over 49’) How many days can system sustain 3.5 mgd?

What, besides more storage, is needed to address this issue? Also, how should issue of very low WINTER flows in drought (with minimal discharge potential) be addressed? What are influent flows now? What is being discharged? Given global warming, these need to be addressed.

What care is taken now to prevent over irrigation of the lower Burch Property? That had been a problem for quite some time. It turns out that ground water levels are very high there and it’s easy for discharge into the aquifer. Also, what is the status of the Clar Tree that was starting to die because of all the water?

Violations summary (pgs. F-7 & F-8):
It is very disturbing that after 26 violations of Copper limit, the method of calculation was changed, and voila, problem goes away. Seeing as salmonids are so very sensitive to copper, we wonder if this change had their true interests in mind here. As mentioned earlier, I will try to find article on this issue and submit with comments.

In regard to recent TDS violations, what actions must be taken to address this problem. How will your agency deal with this?

In regard to EIR for 3.5 mg Equalization Basin, there is a stipulated judgment on that EIR. They will be required to do some geological studies when they plan to move forward with project. That should be mentioned in your description.

CEQA: (p.F-9) This appears to be stating that additional environmental review will be necessary for irrigation expansion, but not for Burch property or golf course. Is that correct?

As for ensuring that Water Recycling Provisions are followed, how will you know it is actually occurring? As you can see from my comments on Santa Rosa’s permit recently, as well as my verbal comments to the Board on Nov. 21, 2013, there is great cause for concern on this issue. Furthermore, the RRCSD has had serious overflow problems with their irrigation in the past. Does Regional Board plan any unannounced visits to the system this summer? In Santa Rosa they are now irrigating late at night at a time when runoff can’t be seen. That appears to be what this permit is calling for as well. We have problems with the details being worked out AFTER this permit is approved.

6. Recycled Water Policy (p. F-13): This page mentions the Salt & Nutrient Policy requirements. This can be addressed on a regional basis, but needs to be completed within a certain time of implementing new recycled water projects. The City of Santa Rosa has been working on such a policy for the Laguna area including Windsor and Sebastopol, but doesn’t come anywhere near Guerneville or Monte Rio. This is not mentioned in this section and we wonder how it will be addresses? The environment east of Forestville is quite different from West County. It’s hard to see where the Santa Rosa Plan could apply to RRCSD. Please address this issue.

Discharge Prohibition: SS0’s (p. F-15): Nothing is said here about the condition and maintenance of private laterals in the system, especially in the low lying flood areas. What is being done about this? Is there any repair program in place? Has SCWA identified laterals needing repair? What has been the SSO record in the last six years? In other words, please define the extent of the problem for RRCSD.

9. Discharge Prohibition: peak flow of 3.5 mg (p.F-15): See comment on top of p 7 at top of page under “Facility Description”.

11. Discharge Prohibition: Compliance to 1% limit (p. F-16): We have serious concerns about the new interpretation of meeting 1% limit. Now compliance can be met with a 1% MONTHLY AVERAGE! Since there are bound to be times when they normally don’t discharge, if they average in the times of no discharge, what is the highest they can discharge on any given day? When flows are high, it probably won’t matter much, but in conditions like we have now, we want to know what potential impacts we can expect. Any remnant toxins in the discharge could have much greater impacts when it has very little water to mix with. It seems as though a much more detailed analysis is needed here. For one thing, it would be interesting to see how much of the time the discharge is over 1%. There needs to be a check to assure this relaxation of the limit is not abused. This could be a back sliding issue. More information is needed.

2 d. Mass based effluent limitations (p. F-18): This section admits that there are I&I problems during periods of high flow yet estimates it as average of 0.13 mgd for entire year. Which year is referred to? What is the range? Regarding issue of staying in compliance with the 3.5 mg capacity limit during high flows: there needs to be analysis of the system and some attempts to replace most egregious failures. What is the history of penalties for failures related to this problem? Are there repeated failures at certain locations indicating ongoing and possibly degrading conditions that need to be addressed?
2 Applicable Beneficial Uses and Water Quality Criteria & Objectives (p.F-19): Would it be appropriate to add Bays and Estuaries Plan regarding toxins under this topic?
b. Priority Pollutants (p. F-21): Hardness must be based on downstream values. Can WER study be counted on for consistency over long time period and under all flow conditions? What about times of drought when flows are very low? Did reasonable worst case upstream analysis consider flows as low as they are now? About to become? Or even lower than 50 mg/L? In addition, why do you consider monitoring three times in five years is adequate?
What factors can change RPA results? Is it conceivable that something will be missed down the road as conditions change? What could trigger further studies, if anything?
Typo? (p. F-25): Line 4, second paragraph refers to Table F-7. I couldn’t find F-7 but I think the reference should be to F-4 on same page.
a. Acute Aquatic Toxicity (p. F-26): Is it conceivable that some toxin can go through system causing acute toxicity unexpectedly? If no testing is on-going, how might that be discovered?

Groundwater (p. F-31): Again Salt & Nutrient Management Plan is mentioned in relation to wastewater irrigation. The purpose of this plan is to protect groundwater. As I mentioned before, this plan is being done in Santa Rosa and is probably not appropriate for Russian River Area.
Assumption of Compliance: p.F-32

The statement is made, near the bottom of the page, that other recycled water use programs in the area have been operating in compliance. I maintain that they only APPEAR to be in compliance, since the monitoring and enforcement is so inadequate that it’s easy to skirt the regulations. (We believe that with RRCSD and in other permits, the requirements are impressive, but the monitoring and enforcement are completely inadequate.)
Here’s a quote from a recent February Gazette article I wrote:

While Santa Rosa’s permit includes many requirements for wastewater irrigation, monitoring and enforcement is extremely inadequate. In their comments on the permit, RRWPC pointed out the following:
• A clear pattern of repeated runoff incidents by approximately 20 irrigators has continued over the last seven years. This is illegal and should be stopped. Yet to our knowledge, Santa Rosa has never turned off irrigated wastewater spigot to those who fail to comply.

• It is unclear if agronomic rates are utilized by all irrigators. Some small urban parcels, especially those indicating repeated runoff events, irrigate huge amounts of water during the irrigation period. A few parcels typically apply almost one million gallons an acre, while agricultural parcels irrigating water-hungry crops usually irrigate less than half that amount. The scale is so out of proportion, it should trigger an investigation regarding appropriate applications on these sites.
• Routine inspections take place when irrigation is turned off, probably because irrigators are told to irrigate around midnight when runoff can’t be seen, and inspections are required only once a month.
• Most runoff reports estimated spills in range of 5 to 10 gallons even where hundreds of thousands of gallons per month were irrigated. This is a probable sign that inspections are casual and brief and attempts are not made to determine how long spill was going on or what caused it. When daily observations take place, as they did over one two week period, the incidences and amounts of reported runoff increased significantly.
• Runoff is maximized by irrigating narrow landscape strips next to impervious surfaces such as streets, driveways, sidewalks, etc. This directly contradicts utilization of agronomic rates for plant water uptake. Regional Board files contain at least 200 photos from 2010 of urban runoff upon which no fines were levied. We have seen runoff and ponding commonly occur at schools and parks where young children play. We have seen it going down the storm drain, ending up in the severely impaired Laguna.
Finally, if this drought continues and conditions get desperate, there will be little water in our creeks and river. Once again, our impaired waterways will consist of mostly chemical wastewater.
Recycled Water Requirements & Provisions-Attachment G p.F-35:
This section requires the development of BMP’s for prevention of spills. In most instances, the word ‘spills’ is probably inappropriate. We suggest it be replaced with the term ‘runoff’. We are here back to the problem of the legalization of ‘incidental runoff’. Unfortunately, it has not been enforced as it is defined (see comments above). Supposedly, wastewater entering storm drain, of which we have several photos, is illegal unless it’s a one time event. Yet these systems are allowed to be built next to and in-between impervious surfaces. This almost guarantees runoff will occur and is in violation of the Recycled Water Policy and the Basin Plan section addressing ‘incidental runoff’.
Furthermore, as stated earlier, if CEQA is being followed, it appears such projects will be required to undergo CEQA review in the future. If the Reclamation Permit is supposedly CEQA compliant, how can you promise future mitigations (BMPs) while authorizing this program/permit?

Recycled Water BMP: p. F-39:
This calls for plan to assure proper agronomic rates are followed. We have no problem with doing a plan and we certainly support agronomic rates. Supposedly the City of Santa Rosa has individual plans, and we believe that some of the large parcels that use their irrigation water probably have them, but there is no evidence that all sites have such a plan. We have requested to look at files for high water users in Santa Rosa and Rohnert Park in the hopes we would view the analysis of plant water and nutrient needs for each parcel. Most parcel files had no information on water needs, type of plants, etc. We have seen no detailed reports determining what water use would be. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist; it just means that if they do, they don’t want us to see them. Similarly, I have not seen this information in Regional Board files either.

One of our concerns is that agronomic rates change over time (sometimes a short time) and if there are no specific requirements about how that will be addressed, it won’t happen. This is an example of something that will have to happen down the road when new parcels join the system. We wonder however if general policies to be followed on this can be laid out in this permit?
I would also like to add that I believe successful agronomic applications can be met, and runoff diminished if new parcels being irrigated were required to use drip systems. Drip irrigation should be at least encouraged, if not required, and spray irrigation in close proximity to impervious surfaces should not be allowed. These can be required in the draft permit.
We saw it mentioned somewhere that irrigation would not be allowed during freezing temperatures. This winter we have been faced with situation where the temperatures go down to freezing over night and up into the 60’s and low 70’s in the day. It’s unclear what the permeability of the soils is during those circumstances, but because we are in the midst of a severe draught, river flows are very low, and consequently very little wastewater can be discharged. We don’t know the status of the ponds, but conceivably it won’t be long, if these circumstances continue (no rain), where they begin to fill up. In regards to irrigation, this PERMIT NEEDS TO ADDRESS THOSE CIRCUMSTANCES in more detail. It should also be addressed in any future operation and management plans. (We feel strongly that the permit should not be silent on this however.)

Flood Control and Flow Reduction Mitigation: p. F-41:
We strongly support this direction, especially the part indicating this is a continuing challenge and needs to be addressed on on-going basis. We request this permit direct that no out of district hookups should be added until all necessary components are built to adequately meet future needs.
There has been a lot of redevelopment in the District, but not too much new development. There is also all this talk about possibly adding Monte Rio to the District. The RRCSD storage component is woefully inadequate, even if they build the 3.5 mg pond. (On the site they want to use, it may be optimistic to think they can even design a 3.5 mg pond. It may need to be a lot smaller. In the EIR for the Irrigation Project, they estimated that 30 mg of storage may be needed to accommodate all hookups during heavy floods.) Then there is also the highly controversial issue of where to put new irrigation that needs to be worked out.
Since Regional Board has frequently hinted that once pathogen TMDL is complete around 2016, they will get serious about implementing AB 885 for the Monte Rio and surrounding area. They have frequently stated that RRCSD is not off the table and have hinted that that is even their preferred alternative. There should be something in this permit that acknowledges that situation and says something about how it will be addressed.

This section is really about the collection system maintenance and I already mentioned that bad private property laterals need to be identified and repaired, especially in flood prone areas. I appreciate that the permit mentions need for conservation program during winter heavy rains (counter intuitive, but people need to understand issues with system in winter). There are also still quite a few summer homes that, if converted to full time use, can put future demands on system that are not there now. That has not been mentioned either (the kind of information that would be good in an area description in introduction). As we stated earlier, way more than 3.5 million gallons was infiltrating system during heavy rains about 8 years ago. It can happen again and we are glad that permit is starting to address that.

Effluent Monitoring: p F-43:
We have addressed all our issues of concern regarding this list but give following for review:
• We don’t believe that monitoring for copper should be eliminated. (see attached article)
• There should be provision that should acute toxicity reoccur, monthly tests would be reinstituted.
• We are concerned about limiting testing for CTR chemicals to once per term. Things can change and six years could go by without knowing. This and item above are of especial concern during large floods. Also, bioaccumulation of toxins during low flow is concern as well.
• Eliminating test for hardness premature if need to continue copper monitoring is determined.
• One of the big changes coming down the road is the likelihood of permanent change of D1610 and lower flows in summer. Potential impacts of this has not been addressed and could have impact on operation of RRCSD. This needs to be addressed.

Attachment G: Water Recycling Requirements & Provisions: p. G-1
Given our extensive Fact Sheet comments, most of our issues regarding wastewater irrigation have already been addressed. We will have a few additions however.
Very recently the State held a workshop on the anticipated merging of the Clean Drinking Water Program from the Department of Public Health to the State Water Board. Because the proposal includes goals of pursuing more extensive recycled water reuse programs and possibly even toilet to tap technologies, RRWPC attended the meeting in Sacramento and submitted comments which we attach here. In those comments, we reiterate our concerns about ‘incidental runoff’ and the potential for misuse and over irrigation of sensitive areas. We did not oppose the reorganization, but expressed concerns over what may evolve from it.
3. a. ii: This section states that irrigation will not occur when soils are saturated. We would like you to add that they won’t occur when soils are frozen either.
A. 4 (p G-2):
This section (and others) fails to note imminent reorganization of Drinking Water Program (Title 22) from Public Health to State Water Board. There are unknowns at this time as to how it might affect NPDES Permits with recycled water use, but it should be acknowledged however. Reorganization proposal attached.
A. 5 (p G-2): MOA mentioned here will be abandoned soon. Supposedly the items in it will be incorporated into new document under State Water Board. It would be good to acknowledge that fact. Comments and proposal attached. We felt it was the Regional Board’s equivalent to Title 22 as it delineated the Board’s responsibilities regarding irrigation and the environment, as opposed to just drinking water concerns. It would be very lop sided to just have Drinking Water Program’s concerns presented in irrigation project proposals.
Also item #7 on same page will soon be irrelevant in regard to CDPH’s role. There are several other following items that need to be changed in that regard.
8 (p G-2): How will ‘negligence’ be determined? Also, will irrigation projects be subject to CEQA?
A.11. (p.G-3):

We have a problem with the concept of ‘unintended, minimal overspray’. All it takes is a little wind and spray can blow all over. There needs to be some requirement added that irrigation should not take place when winds are, for example, over five miles an hour (ten at most). This is particularly important in urban area where spray can expose people to wastewater.
I once saw a very heavy spray going across Guerneville Rd. in Santa Rosa. I knew it was wastewater and closed my window in time or it would have gone in my face and mouth. Most people don’t know which sprays are wastewater, even when signs are up. (Signs are tiny and tend to be designed to blend in with landscape. I have trouble finding them even when I’m looking.
B. Water Recycling Requirements (p. G-3):
Statement is made that delivery of water is to cease until compliance problems are addressed. While we totally support this approach, the City of Santa Rosa has almost never required irrigation water turnoff. The same is probably even more likely with the City of Rohnert Park. I appreciate this requirement in RRCSD permit, but wonder why it’s not enforced for everyone? At least, RB1 has never enforced this with Santa Rosa.
B.9: a, b, & c Agronomic application rates: (p. G-4): It would seem that the draft permit should mention some standards here. The interpretation is being left fairly wide open. Aren’t there industry standards that can be held up as an example? It is unclear, based on this mushy language, how compliance can be assured. What changes in loading rates might occur from one part of season to another?
B.10: very good. It addresses prior concerns (running out of time so I won’t rewrite other sections.
B.11 (See A.11. above)
B.12.f.: Consider adding soil saturation and frost to ‘precipitation’.
B. 12. h. (p. G-4): What is meant by ‘repeat start times’?
B. 13. (p. G-5): If irrigation takes place at night, overflows can’t be easily observed. Early morning or late afternoon might work.
B. 14. (p. G-5): This needs to be addressed with rule on overspray (see note on A 11 above). Unfortunately this is the kind of thing that will not be enforced if it is not clearly spelled out.
B. 23. (p. G-6): I have to point out that those signs are almost invisible. I went looking for them in Santa Rosa and they were so tiny, and colored to blend in with scenery, that I couldn’t find them and had to ask where they were placed. They also weren’t placed in very noticable location. If they were just slightly bigger and colored brightly and placed near street in visible place, then they would be okay.
C.3. (p. G-7): The word ‘inspections’ needs to be clearly defined, as there are many different levels and types. For instance, I believe that cursory inspections are made as infrequent as once a month. That allows for a void of information on what is happening in regards to runoff. When more frequent inspections take place, more runoff is cited (Rohnert Park especially).
Some inspections are to check for system breaks and need for repairs. That is an entirely different kind of inspection. If you don’t have checks for runoff a lot more frequently than once a month, there will be a lot of runoff that never gets reported. There are two acre parcels in RP that irrigate a million or more gallons a season and they are always cited for very small amounts of runoff (5-10 gallons). I believe this is because they do cursory inspections for a few minutes and just report what they see at that time. Also, they often inspect when system is turned off. It would be important to specify that inspections should take place when system is turned on.

Many of the requirements in the Reclamation Permit are excellent. I believe staff had the best of intentions when writing this up. I have discovered a lot of loop holes by studying Santa Rosa’s and Rohnert Park’s systems (Regional Board has about 200 photos in files of runoff in both places in 2010.) Also, the Self Monitoring Reports, which I am not sure get read, tell an interesting story about the amounts of wastewater applied to an area filled with impervious surfaces. (2X amount used on water hungry agricultural crops)
It has been disappointing that no one has responded to me in regards to problems in Santa Rosa and Rohnert Park. I hope that some of the suggestions presented here can be utilized to assure that similar situations don’t happen at RRCSD. I prefer to walk down my street without getting hit with wastewater spray.
Brenda Adelman