Tuesday, April 10, 2007

S.Wa.T.T. Force 1 vs. TAC

TAC, you're about to get your butt kicked.

Ladies and Gentlemen, SewerWatch is proud to present, S.Wa.T.T. Force 1 (The SewerWatch Technical Task Force... and then I just added the "1" because it sounded cool, you know, like Air Force 1).

That's my very own, personal Technical Task Force formed to find the best wastewater solution for Los Osos, and I'm approaching it as a friendly competition with the county's Technical Advisory Committee, recently formed to accomplish the exact same thing, but S.Wa.T.T. Force 1 is just flat-out better, MUCH better.

We're going to dominate.

I've been corresponding with a bunch of really smart people that know a heck of a lot about wastewater, and well, we're about ready to wrap this up, but what's holding things up is the Tri-W mess, and its ones of, unfortunately for Los Osos taxpayers, influential supporters. (Personally, I don't understand why the Tri-W contingent even gets a seat at the table at all. I mean, they were called "bait and switchy" by the California Coastal Commission. Why does a group that was called "bait and switchy" by the Coastal Commission, AND that was rejected by Los Osos voters in the last three elections, get a say in the matter at all? That doesn't make much sense.). If they would just stop obstructing things, there would be a lean and mean wastewater system built in Los Osos in about 2-and-a-half years, everyone in Los Osos would be compliant with 83-13 -- the state law that prohibits wastewater discharges from septic tanks in Los Osos, there won't be a huge sewer plant in the middle of a beautiful California coastal town, and it will be millions upon millions of dollars cheaper to build and to operate than the previous, deeply flawed, mid-town Tri-W project.

Wanna see a great example of how bad-ass S.Wa.T.T. Force 1 is?

Check this out: Look how fast we work -- we already have the sewer plant downwind, out of town, at a MUCH less expensive site, just like the community and the Coastal Commission have wanted for years, AND we've already eliminated the Tri-W location as a potential site for a sewer plant because 1) it's about the stupidest place imaginable to build a sewer plant (what were they thinking?), 2) it will never work (see reason #1), and 3) it's most likely very illegal to build a sewer plant at that location (more on that later).

In case you missed it, Ripley Pacific Engineering (by the way, Dana Ripley, a highly knowledgeable wastewater expert whose team completed a recent update to the LOCSD's sewer project, is an honorary member of S.Wa.T.T. Force 1) produced an excellent document called: Evaluation of Alternative Candidate Sites for Location of Wastewater Treatment Plant.

That document has a treatment facility location known as the Giacomazzi site floating to the top.

S.Wa.T.T. Force 1 says: "Excellent choice," for all the reasons listed in the document. It's downwind, out of town, hidden in an "environmentally preferable" area, and it costs a fraction of the centrally located, and multi-million dollar, Tri-W site. The Coastal Commission, and the vast majority of the community will love it. Plus, its price tag is about $323,000 dollars, so the Tri-W site could be sold, the Giacomazzi site could be purchased, and there would still be about $3 million (three million!) leftover. A quick update to the existing EIR to include the Giacomazzi site, and BAM, we're ready to rock 'n' roll. (I plan on contacting the staff of the California Coastal Commission soon to see what it will take to fast-track the permitting process for the site. So, we're also working on that at the same time we're looking into financing, including private sources.)

I mean it, we're going to blow the TAC away.

According to Ripley's evaluation, the owner of the site is willing to sell the property for treatment facility purposes. "He would like to be a part of the solution to the community’s wastewater management and water resource shortage problems," the document reads.

S.Wa.T.T. Force 1 says: "That's about the best, coolest reasoning I've seen in my 15 years of covering this story." Whomever the owner of the Giacomazzi site is, the majority of Los Osos voters over the past three elections says, "Thank you!"

And all that leads directly to what's been bugging me lately, and that's the fact that, these days, post-recall, there ARE official reports concerning various wastewater options for Los Osos. The reason that bugs me is because for the longest time (from about the time the Solution Group's plan flamed out in late 2000, to about the time of a certain election in the fall of 2005), everyone in Los Osos, and in the media, and in a bunch of government agencies was told by the Los Osos Community Services District that the Tri-W option was the only wastewater option for Los Osos. But, if that's the case, then why are all these alternative treatment facility locations coming out now?

Wait. It gets worse.

In the Tri-W Coastal Development Permit, it says: "CZLUO Section 23.08.288d allows public facilities within ESHA only where there is no other feasible location."

Now, when I see stuff like numbers separated by periods, like this "23.08.288," that tells me that the words that are about to follow all those numbers and periods are probably kind of important, which begs a question -- Is the ESHA-filled Tri-W site really the only "feasible location" for a wastewater treatment facility in Los Osos, as per CZLUO Section 23.08.288d?

"The simple answer is no," wrote Dana Ripley, in a recent e-mail to SewerWatch. "There is AT LEAST one other feasible location in our opinion – Site D (Giacomazzi parcel). This was confirmed by the NWRI panel in December 2006."

In that document, The National Water Research Institute concluded:

"There are two potential plant locations for the treatment facility: in-town or out-of-town, each with their own implementation challenges. Given the number of problematic issues with the downtown site (Tri-W), it is the unanimous opinion of the Panel that an out-of-town site(s) is a better alternative."

Ripley added, "It should also be noted that the County's just released Rough Screening Analysis Report includes eight "Treatment Facility Siting Alternatives." All eight sites (including Site D) "pass through rough screening.""

So, naturally, I'm confused.

If Ripley's tight analysis puts the Tri-W site dead last in potential site rankings, and the NWRI, with a bunch of really smart people on it says, "it is the unanimous opinion of the Panel that an out-of-town site(s) is a better alternative," and if the county itself has identified several other apparently "feasible locations," then why did the previous design team conclude that the Tri-W site, with lots of ESHA, was the only "feasible location" for a wastewater treatment facility in Los Osos?

It sure sounds like 1) the previous design team has got a lot of 'splainin' to do regarding CZLUO Section 23.08.288d, and 2) it sure sounds like CZLUO Section 23.08.288d makes the Tri-W project fatally flawed, because it's obviously NOT the only "feasible location" for a sewer plant in the Los Osos area. In fact, there are several other options, according to, well, just about everybody, and that means there CAN'T be a sewer plant on Tri-W. Apparently, it's in gross violation of all those numbers and periods that come after "CZLUO Section... ."

See how good S.Wa.T.T. Force 1 is? We kick butt. We handle things with such ease and efficiency, something none of the government agencies associated with the project over the years were able to accomplish.

But, too bad the county's TAC isn't as pragmatic as we are. In fact, reading through their Rough Screening Report, it seems they aren't familiar with Tri-W's flawed development permit at all, because -- get a load of this -- they're giving Tri-W a free pass all the way through the screening process. Apparently, Tri-W is immune to the "fatal flaw" process found in the Rough Screening Report. That nonsensical project doesn't have to fight its way through the field like the other viable alternatives. Nope, it gets "carried through" all the way to the championship game.

I recently sent the county's public works department this e-mail:
- - -
    In the TAC Rough Screening Report it reads:

    "1.2.1 Previous Project (Tri-W)

    The previous project at the Tri-W site will be carried through fine screening process for comparison purposes. While a significant portion of the community
    (SewerWatch note: What they call "significant portion of the community," S.Wa.T.T. Force 1 calls "the majority of Los Osos voters over the last three elections") did not find the project acceptable, the Tri-W project remains a viable project, since it already met the basis of evaluation of being permitable, constructible and fundable."

    it also reads:

    The primary purpose of the rough screening wasis (sic) to develop a “short-list” of component alternatives and eliminate components that have fatal flaws or significantly problematic challenges that make permitting, funding and/or construction of the alternative unlikely.

    Here are my questions:

    Does that mean that the Tri-W project will be immune to the "fatal flaw" process during the entire alternative project screening period?

    If so, what happens if there are fatal flaws discovered with the Tri-W project that make the "construction of the alternative unlikely?"

- - -

Of course, they never replied. Too bad, they would have learned that the Tri-W project is NOT "permitable, constructible and fundable," because not only are there a host of unfunded "conditions of approval" currently found in the project's Coastal Development Permit -- conditions like an elaborate public park, that require millions upon millions of dollars to fund and operate, and, right now, no one can say where that money is going to come from -- but, apparently, it's also illegal to build a sewer plant there in the first place, according to CZLUO Section 23.08.288d.

So, TAC, in the spirit of friendly competition.... in your face! Ahhhhaaaa. You still have Tri-W on the table as an option. You're "carrying it through" for "comparison purposes," even though NWRI representatives unanimously agree that an out of town site should be selected, and that's embarrassing, as you're about to find out in, what, about three or four months, when S.Wa.T.T. Force 1 is well on our way to securing funding and permits for a project that will actually work?

- - -

Got an interesting e-mail from another fellow S.Wa.T.T. Force 1 member (honorary member), Dr. Tom Ruehr.

A lot of folks in Los Osos know Dr. Ruehr because he's been involved with the sewer issue for a long time, and he's really smart. He's also the only former Solution Group member that I am aware of that has jumped the sinking S.S. Tri-W ship... because he's really smart. (I wrote about all that here.)

"The whole process has been extremely flawed from the word go," Ruehr recently wrote to SewerWatch.

He added that he went through the Technical Advisory Commission's Rough Screening Report, and made a lengthy list of notes that include thoughts on private financing, and many other interesting points. He's allowed me to post his brilliant critique here. So now, S.Wa.T.T. Force 1 also has that killer document in our arsenal.

With the siting issue now behind us, S.Wa.T.T. Force 1 will be focusing on treatment technology, collection, financing, and permitting. That should be all wrapped up in about a month or two. Then, anyone that still supports the deeply flawed Tri-W project will be obstructionists.



  • Gee Ron, I think your impressive talent would be better used in a competition with the Water board.
    Besides shooting down TriW is like ducks in a barrel.

    Wait until the final TAC report comes out...
    Then, Open Season!

    By Blogger Mike Green, at 4:20 PM, April 10, 2007  

  • Please don't wait for the final TAC report. That may be too late. A good offense is better than a belated defense.

    An alternative task force is an awesome idea. It will provide immediate feedback for the county before trail they are creating becomes an unalterable six lane highway.

    While you are at it, please keep on site systems on the table. I truly believe that this is the future of WW treatment in small communities such as ours as technology improves and costs decrease. It may not occur in time to help us in LOs Osos, but the timing will be close, so please keep your team on top of it.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:53 AM, April 11, 2007  

  • MG wrote:

    "Wait until the final TAC report comes out...
    Then, Open Season!"

    That will be interesting. I stopped by the first TAC meeting a few weeks back (just happened to be in SLO town... thought I'd check it out... put some faces to the names) and contrary to popular belief, Paavo Ogren and CSD engineer Rob Miller seem genuinely interested in STEP-STEG. Ogren said that public works used unconvetional technologies in the Lopez Dam upgrade, and Miller said that, according to the experts on the NWRI Panel, STEP-STEG is conventional technology.

    Anon wrote:

    "While you are at it, please keep on site systems on the table."


    By Blogger Ron, at 10:11 AM, April 12, 2007  

  • Don't worry our anonymous friend ... the only site that Ron will eliminate from consideration will be TriW and the only collection system he will eliminate will be gravity and the only treatment technology he will eliminate will be MBR? Why? Not because they are inferior in general or for Los Osos in particular ... nope ... Ron will only work to make those possibilities look bad because people named Pandora, Stan, Gordon and Richard liked those systems better than all of the other alternatives they studied.

    Have no worries ... Ron is on your side and he'll do his best to make sure that in Los Osos we go with the plan that he likes best. Why? Not because he lives here or has any stake in the matter at all ... probably because he wants to justify some of what he wrote earlier that was critical of the TriW site and plan ... a plan that is now looking better and better as time goes by. Certainly whatever happens things will cost more now for those of us here in Los Osos because of the actions of people Ron has supported ... maybe he feels an obligation to prove himself right when he's been so wrong before.

    By Blogger Shark Inlet, at 3:28 PM, April 12, 2007  

  • It is highly unfortunate that the inferior options mentioned above were driven forward by the old CSD boards. So then there was a recall. Then the county took over, etc. Too bad they didn't LISTEN to the smart people in the community. Now we're f*cked. And Ron wants to f*ck them back. Yup, Pandora and Co. really pulled the ole bait-n-switchy on our little berg. Too bad.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:01 PM, April 12, 2007  

  • So ... Ron wants to get even in some way. Fine. My question is why his method of getting even with Pandora and others he dislikes has to include raising my bills. Can't Ron figure out some way of getting even without hurting innocent bystanders?

    By Blogger Shark Inlet, at 6:11 PM, April 12, 2007  

  • Hey, Sharky, my prediction's not wrong yet. In fact, on-site systems are being examined vigorously by S.Wa.T.T. Force 1.

    And, "getting even?" I don't even know what that means. What am I getting even for? Please, fill me in.

    Oh, and, one mo' thing, remember when I said that because Tri-W was never going to never work, it was a VERY good thing it was stopped when it was,well, it's good to see that Dr. Ruehr agrees with me:

    "Since the Tri W site is very much on the table, it is extremely important to point out at every opportunity how the County engineering and the RWQCB have adopted and approved of a fatally flawed system. This is a good example of the ethics violations of the process. They hide under the CEQA regulations as if this absolves the County engineering and RWQCB of criminal action for approving of significant errors in approving of the Tri W site as would have occurred if this process had not been stopped. Even now, many want to ignore these fatal flaws in their zeal to move forward in a speedy fashion."

    Well put, Dr.

    By Blogger Ron, at 6:24 PM, April 12, 2007  

  • Damn...


    "Oh, and, one mo' thing, remember when I said that because Tri-W was never going to never work"

    but, of course:

    "Oh, and, one mo' thing, remember when I said that because Tri-W was never going to work"

    By Blogger Ron, at 6:26 PM, April 12, 2007  

  • Ron ... Rhuer's opinion of what is a fatal flaw is something that professional engineers in the area disagree with. Even Dana Ripley has indicated that TriW, as designed, would work. While Ripley believes other solutions might be "better" (even if it costs us more, he doesn't care because he'll get paid for his design work), TriW will work just fine.

    By Blogger Shark Inlet, at 7:24 PM, April 12, 2007  

  • Yeah, it'll work. But most people DON'T WANT IT. How long have you lived here? Were you here when the 1998 CSD was elected?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:03 PM, April 13, 2007  

  • To our most recent anonymous friend ... I suspect that if you took a poll today ... either of property owners or of Los Osos residents ... and asked them whether they would prefer TriW at $200/month or out of town at $250/month (or more) they would say they prefer TriW.

    If you think that people would rather pay more you're either pretty well off or you know a very different cross-section of town than I do.

    If you think that out of town will be cheaper for some reason you should probably look over the many discussions of that matter and explain how this could happen. (Note: this would not be for the faint of heart because not even the brilliant Ron has been able to explain how how we'll save money with the extra delay.)

    Oh ... why would it matter one bit whether I lived here in 1998 or not? But just in case you were really curious ... yes ... I made the mistake of voting for the formation of the CSD.

    By Blogger Steve, at 10:25 PM, April 15, 2007  

  • Steve wrote:

    "I suspect that if you took a poll today ... either of property owners or of Los Osos residents ... and asked them whether they would prefer TriW at $200/month or out of town at $250/month (or more) they would say they prefer TriW."

    But what if they were asked, "Would you prefer Tri-W if there was no chance of it ever working?"

    Anon wrote:

    "Yeah, it'll work. But most people DON'T WANT IT."

    The second part of that is accurate. The first part of that is inaccurate. And I'll be proven right, again, if Tri-W ever gets restarted.

    Steve wrote:

    "But just in case you were really curious ... yes ... I made the mistake of voting for the formation of the CSD."

    Just curious: Was your decision to cast that vote influenced by the Solution Group's "better, cheaper, faster" marketing campaign?

    By Blogger Ron, at 9:07 AM, April 17, 2007  

  • Any site for a wastewater treatment site and it's disposal sites that have fatal flaws should not be built. The "Out-of-Town" site has a fatal flaw: it's out of town.

    When the CSD formed, it made a boundary for the town of Los Osos and outside of the town is not their town. There are elections for CSD members and the people of the town of Los Osos vote for (or in most cases, against) the people running (for the position no one in their right mind should want). AND they voted to have a sewer.

    Many or half of the town now believes that the sewer is a horrible structure to have in their town and say: Not in My town, put it in someone else's town'. They look off toward Los Osos Valley, an agricultural community and say: Stick it out in their town, they don't matter.

    Now, if the sewer is so groteque and horrible, wouldn't it be hypocritical that it's ok with those that hold that view to put this monstrosity in someone else's town? Anyone else's town? Do they get to vote?

    I predict that the Los Osos Valley community will form a group to protest any industrial zoning change to accomodate someone else's sewer. And if I'm aware of their formation meeting, I'll go and suggest a really catchy name for their group: SWaTT Force 2.

    Is there one objective person reviewing the sewer? No. Everyone has their own agenda to push through and there is no objectivity. The Dreamers want revenge and are ruthless in getting what they want, the other half wants what they want no one else matters and are just as ruthless in their behind-the-scenes tactics (example: Julie Tacker/Edwards approach to taking the Gorby's property. Let the Gorby's give you the full account of what happened. They even had to hire an attorney.)

    The Blakeslee's bill and County taking over the project merely rearranges the deck chairs. Same ol, same 'ol; business as usual.

    And by the way, where's Waldo? Did what's his name ever resurface down at the infamous Regional Water Board?

    By Anonymous commentary, at 4:35 PM, April 18, 2007  

  • "Any site for a wastewater treatment site and it's disposal sites that have fatal flaws should not be built. The "Out-of-Town" site has a fatal flaw: it's out of town."

    Correct, commentary! All that water ouside of town will cost a fortune to bring back into town to stem saltwater intrusion and to recharge the aquifer! It's all fine to put it out of town -- if you want to pay that price.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:09 PM, April 19, 2007  

  • Response to anon. on traveling water and it's cost: you have missed the point I was making and I will address it in the subsequent posts of the next article (because the blog author, Mr. Crawford, is responding to it there.)

    By Anonymous commentary, at 4:10 PM, April 22, 2007  

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