RRWPC Comments to Regional Board, 8/14/14

Public Forum Comments By Brenda Adelman, RRWPC

Regional Board Chair, Members, and staff:

Starting in early July, I began travelling to Santa Rosa and Rohnert Park on numerous occasions to take photographs very early in the morning of urban wastewater irrigation sites.   It was my goal to see if my concerns about urban irrigation with tertiary wastewater were justified. Most sites were not actively irrigating between 7:00 and 8:00 in the morning, but on each of the six days I went out, I found at least two or three sites actively spraying wastewater on their landscape, and in every case, runoff occured. Here are some of my concerns with pictures to illustrate.

  1. Signage is big problem. Most sites have no signs and those that do are barely visible, as they are tiny and in muted colors. I found only one good sign that was posted in a highly visible location. (Sonoma Mountain Village)   I include one good example and one bad. Many of the sites are at parks and school yards where children can easily be exposed. One site was a public bus stop where pools of water can be seen off and on over several years.
  1. Most site inspections take place when systems are turned off. As irrigation occurs at night, the runoff quickly dissipates and by early morning it becomes virtually impossible to tell there was runoff. Every time I saw irrigation spray occurring, I saw runoff, usually into a storm drain. When 6-8 hours pass between irrigation time and inspection time, there is no way of estimating amount of runoff that occurred. There should be nighttime monitoring if night irrigation is going to continue.
  1. Runoff is guaranteed where spray goes on sidewalks in order to irrigate narrow vegetation strips between impervious surfaces. Set back from drainage areas, streets and sidewalks should be required.
  1. Sprays should be on low pressure in areas where people are likely to be present such as impervious surface areas.
  1. Usually, sites that over-irrigate are repeat offenders and use especially large amounts of water. Repeat offender irrigators should be tracked carefully and their rights to irrigate taken away when they don’t comply.
  1. There is a governance issue coming up in March of next year when Santa Rosa will no longer oversee Rohnert Park’s irrigation system. They will sell the water to Rohnert Park who will then oversee all the monitoring, reporting, enforcement, etc. even though Santa Rosa is supposedly legally responsible for wastewater generated at the Subregional Treatment Plant. That needs to be addressed.