~Making Watershed History~ by joey racano
In the summer of 1999, the unthinkable happened in Huntington Beach, California- 'Surf City', USA.
Bacteria levels found to exceed AB 411 standards closed the most famous beaches in the world on Labor Day weekend. The result was a public health -and public relations- nightmare.
A cry went up from citizens, who wanted their clean beaches back.
Amid that public outcry, a public relations campaign was hatched by those who depended on having carte blanch to build on every last open space and a nearby ocean to use as a cheap dumping ground for the resulting sewage.
First came the damage-control. We were told things like, "The beaches are open! The water is closed, yes, but the beaches are open!".
Then came the alibis.
Much like the PR 'spin' now emanating from 'pandoras box' in Los Osos about
septic tanks, spin doctors
told us the bacteria was from birds.
But activist's soon uncovered the real reasons.
Like Morro Bay-Cayucos is now, Orange County was then operating under a 301h waiver, allowing them to dump sewage into the ocean without full secondary treatment, which is the bare minimum required by federal law. Outraged citizens got involved, and the Ocean Outfall Group was born.
Meanwhile, industry spin doctors told us the source of the bacteria was "birds in Talbert Marsh" and even "a nearby lifeguard bathroom"!
But none of it was true. These were lies told to us by people who simply wanted to continue building but were being prevented by the sane, lawful and proper sewage treatment required.
Perplexed by all the conflicting information, Huntington Beach then hired a cracker-jack company named KOMEX to finally get to the bottom of it all.
And was the beach being contaminated by leaky sewers underground?
Because Pathogens are particulate matter, their mass prevents them from moving very far through sediment, much as the sediment surrounding Los Osos's septic tanks is preventing effluent from reaching the bay now.
disproves the myth that Los Osos's septic tanks are polluting the bay. Huntington
Beach paid a lot for these
studies, and have saved Los Osos a bundle of money! The bay is being polluted by upstream dumping and the 301h waiver.
So why are we being 'ordered' to build a poorly designed, mis-located and over-priced sewer plant by the RWQCB? Because pro-growth forces want to build more structures in Los Osos and are presently thwarted by a septic system network designed perfectly for a small community, one that would rather grow in quality than in quantity.
The Regional Board was created in the 70's by the state water board, which in turn was created in the 40's from the original 'Rancher' boards, involved in making sure cattle got water.
Such boards were
created to serve industry. The health of the estuary is not the reason they
exist. They exist to protect the
ability of builders to keep on building.
That is why they recently came here to threaten you!
The real pollution culprit is a poorly designed water cycle design which is where the Ocean Outfall Group can help, and this, in fact, is the reason we have come.
What do we want? Clean water.
How will this be achieved?
Our first order of business will be to end the 301h waiver. I would like to mention that of 16,034 sanitation districts in America, the Morro Bay-Cayucos Sanitation District's 301(h) waiver is one of the LAST TWO REMAINING (San Diego holds the other).
In Orange County, the beginning of the end for the 301h waiver was when the Ocean Outfall Group took a tour of the facility, learning much from the very helpful technicians working there. 14 month later, on July 17th 2002, the largest waiver (then one of the last six) fell.
Next month, representatives of the Ocean Outfall Group including citizens, activists, scientists and elected officials, will tour the Morro Bay-Cayucos Wastewater Treatment Plant. You are invited to join us as we continue to make watershed history. Bring a clipboard!
Do we have a plan?
You bet we do- 'S.A.N.D. Plan' (Sensible Alternatives to Negligent Dumping) .
S.A.N.D. Plan creates employment and grant opportunities by working a regional approach, recharges aquifers, counters saltwater intrusion through strategically placed injection wells, eliminates effluent through recycling*, ends agricultural depletion of aquifers by supplying nitrate rich treated wastewater instead, does away with sewage waivers, thermal waivers, larvae destruction* and use of the estuary for single-pass cooling*. SAND Plan is a bold vision, and much different than the one currently proposed by the CSD 3, the Regional Board and the spin doctors of the 'Pandoras Box' Public Relations firm.
*In Casa Grande, Arizona, effluent from the WWTP is sent directly to the nearby power plant where it is purchased and used for cooling. This results in a $200,000 annual windfall for that city!
Ocean Outfall Group
Morro Bay, Calif