Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Local Water Quality Control Board Gets Lucky: They're Being Sued

I finally got a comment back from Jeff Young (left), the chairperson of the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, regarding my post from a couple of weeks back.

In that post, I showed (again) how nearly four years and over $7 million of official SLO County government analysis, proved my 2004 New Times cover story, Three Blocks Upwind of Downtown, 100-percent accurate: That the former mid-town Tri-W sewer "project," that the Los Osos CSD wasted $25 million and six years (1999 - 2005) developing, was a complete, nonsensical, embarrassing, "sewer-park" disaster.

I also showed in my piece that, solely because Los Osos voters elected to stop that disaster in 2005, the local Water Quality Control Board randomly selected 45 property owners in Los Osos, and then launched hard-core enforcement actions on them -- enforcement actions that caused so much stress to the recipients, due to the very real possibility of losing their homes, that the actions sent people (many, elderly) to the hospital.

And, finally, I also dug up a quote from Jeff Young, where he said that the only reason his Board ordered the enforcement actions was because the voters of Los Osos put the Tri-W project "on blocks" in 2005.

So, my e-mail to Young was seeking comment on a version of this great question:

- - -
Now that nearly four years and over $7 million of official analysis has shown the Tri-W "project" to be the exact disaster that I've reported it to be over the past six years, starting in 2004, and, considering that you (Young) said, "I can tell you one thing, that had the community not put the blocks on the current project (the Tri-W project) that we would not be here with an ACL hearing," will your Board, considering that your conclusions on the Tri-W "project" in 2005 were 180-degrees wrong from the truth, now be abandoning the enforcement actions altogether and issuing an apology to the 45 property owners, because, as it turns out, putting the Tri-W disaster "on blocks" was the exact right thing to do (for many, many reasons, including environmental), and, therefore, instead of being punished by your Board, the voters of Los Osos should actually be commended by your Board for putting the Tri-W disaster "on blocks" in 2005?

Will your Board now be doing that?
- - -

Well, I finally got an "answer" to that great question:

"Los Osos enforcement actions are subject to a lawsuit and the board members will not make any comments at this time with respect to these enforcement issues," Jeffrey Young, Chair, Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board.

Yep, after nearly two weeks, that's how he responded to my question.

I replied (and this is great):

"If the CCRWQCB were to simply abandoned the enforcement actions altogether, as you clearly should, there would be no enforcement actions that would be "subject to a lawsuit," and then you could comment on the subject."

To which, Roger Briggs, Executive Officer, Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, responded:

"The Deputy Attorney General handling the lawsuit has advised the Board not to engage in discussions about this matter, so asking the questions again doesn't change the fact that the Board will not discuss the issue."

So, look at this situation, it's excellent:

The fact that the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board is currently being sued by the Prohibition Zone Legal Defense Fund over the Los Osos enforcement actions, is actually VERY fortunate for the CCRWQCB, because now they CAN'T comment on the fact that nearly four years and over $7 million of official analysis shows that they were so wrong in 2005, and, because they were SO wrong, they continue to wrongly punish (present tense) 45 completely innocent property owners in Los Osos, and send them to the hospital.

So, it is extremely lucky for Jeff Young, that that lawsuit exists, or else he'd have to comment on my story.

[Uh, PZLDF? Could you do me a favor? Please drop your lawsuit... you know, for the sake of my story. If that lawsuit were to go away, then Jeff Young wouldn't have an excuse to NOT answer this question:

Now that nearly four years and over $7 million of official analysis has shown the Tri-W "project" to be the exact disaster that I've reported it to be over the past six years, starting in 2004, and, considering that you (Young) said, "I can tell you one thing, that had the community not put the blocks on the current project (the Tri-W project) that we would not be here with an ACL hearing," will your Board, considering that your conclusions on the Tri-W "project" in 2005 were 180-degrees wrong from the truth, now be abandoning the enforcement actions altogether and issuing an apology to the 45 property owners, because, as it turns out, putting the Tri-W disaster "on blocks" was the exact right thing to do (for many, many reasons, including environmental), and, therefore, instead of being punished by your Board, the voters of Los Osos should actually be commended by your Board for putting the Tri-W disaster "on blocks" in 2005?

Will your Board now be doing that?]


[33 weeks down... 19 to go.]


  • Nice work Ron.

    Adding another 1,100 more point sources of pollution after imposing 83-13 coupled with the WB's apparent pending approval of a leaking, energy intensive (AB32 non compliant) conveyance system in Los Osos drinking water aquifer will be very interesting predicament indeed, given the current condition and future outlook of the economy.

    Government is clearly, so very broken…
    One wonders if Jeff will still be around when the hammer gets dropped on the, Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board.

    By Blogger Watershed Mark, at 9:02 PM, August 18, 2010  

  • Even if the lawsuit disappears, Chairman Young, the Board, Roger Briggs STILL won't answer your question. They don't have to. They are accountable to NOBODY for anything, even appallingly wrong decisions that have a direct effect on people's rights. You are looking at a corrupted system with no proper checks or balances, a corrupted system that has roped everyone in it up to and including the Attorney General who's "prosecuting" this lawsuit, instead of defending the citizens who were being terrorized. After which, the AG needed to begin an investigation of those SRF funds & etc. All of which he has refused to do. Ditto the Feds, who should have also tracked those federal monies to see how those SRF funds were dispersed & etc. Instead, what we've seen is a wall of silence. All the way to the top at Sacramento and all the way back to Washington: Chinatown, Ron, it's Chinatown. And in China town, it's a Mad Hatter's Tea Party every day.

    By Blogger Churadogs, at 6:03 AM, August 19, 2010  

  • Chura wrote:

    "Even if the lawsuit disappears, Chairman Young, the Board, Roger Briggs STILL won't answer your question."

    Probably, but at least they'd have to come up with a different excuse than, "It's in litigation, therefore we can't comment."

    (Oh, did they luck out on that.)

    I love my point where I say that if they simply dropped the enforcement actions, then the lawsuit would go away, and then they'd be free to comment. Great!

    And my point on how the voters of Los Osos in 2005, instead of being punished by the RWQCB, should actually be commended by the (badly confused) RWQCB? Excellent point. SO true.


    "... the Attorney General who's "prosecuting" this lawsuit, instead of defending the citizens who were being terrorized. "

    The interesting thing there is, as I've shown, the AG's office, when it comes down to cases that involve the People of California v. State Agencies (i.e. the Los Osos CDOs), the AG is required, by State law, to represent the State Agencies.

    It's a horrific arrangement.

    And it's my hunch -- just a hunch -- that our current AG isn't down with that arrangement (ol' Jer doesn't strike me as someone that would approve of what's happening to those 45 Los Osos property owners, it's just that his hands are tied. He CAN'T help those people, State law won't let him.

    And, also just a hunch, I think that if our current AG is elected governor in November -- and therefore no longer obligated to represent State Agencies over the People of California -- he'll revisit this case, and right some terrible wrongs, as he should.

    The RWQCB actually is accountable to somebody... the Governor.

    Mark wrote:

    "One wonders if Jeff will still be around when the hammer gets dropped on the, Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board."

    Damn, that'd be sweet.

    Another State board that could be completely eliminated, and no one would notice the slightest difference?

    The California Fair Political Practices Commission.

    Absolutely useless. Toothless and useless, and, like the Trib, "worse than nothing."

    I wonder what their operating budget is?

    By Blogger Ron, at 10:43 AM, August 19, 2010  

  • Had the sewer system stopped by Measure B been a Step system, out of town with ponds, and the Water Board came down on the town that stopped its building, would you say the exact same things that you are saying now?

    No one wants to answer this, but I will ask again - what would appropriate punishment have been for stopping building a system to stop the pollution in Los Osos?

    By Blogger Sewertoons, at 11:29 AM, August 19, 2010  

  • Check out what the County Civil Grand Jury has done for the smallest incorporated City in Stanislaus County named "Hughson" close to Turlock.

    The City of about 6,000 plus with 3000 registered voters has long been plagued with petty politics, conflict, disfunction and a trio of rogue counsel members with huge egos.

    In December the local grand jury issued a scathing report and suggested they all resign within 90 days or face a recall. They refused and formed a familiar sounding group, went on a PR campaign badmouthing everyone involved alleging that they did not violate The Brown Act, The Fair Political Practice Commission and the Hughson Municipal code.

    In the following months since, counsel meetings became something of a circus, with many 3-2 decisions.

    It only took a local group only 70 hours to gather an amazing 1000 signatures for the recall. The City even agreed to pay for it. The election is set for next Tuesday. One member did the right thing and resigned recently, however his name is still on recall.

    The ongoing drama sounds familiar; alleged missing computer and police report, conspiring E-mails back and forth, behind the scenes maneuvering and they were even caught on audio tape conspiring against City staff members.

    The three whipped puppies will probably
    depart with their tails between their legs.

    And the beat goes on.

    By Blogger FOGSWAMP, at 12:16 PM, August 19, 2010  

  • Not only do we see things like that happening in Stanislaus County, but also in places like Bell and now Oxnard. All over the state and all over the country, there are many local governments that are corrupt and dysfunctional.

    Los Osos is not different.

    What's amazing about Los Osos is that supporters of the people who were recalled have spent years and to this day, they continue to disparage their critics and pretend that the old guard did everything by the book. The question -- that keeps coming up -- is: why is Los Osos constantly portrayed as the exception?

    By Blogger The Razor, at 2:39 PM, August 19, 2010  

  • Did you see the non-response to our SLO Grand Jury's 2005-06 questioning?

    "Despite several grand jury requests for
    detailed billing records and data, neither the LOCSD nor their attorneys were willing to provide
    information to the Grand Jury to enable us to determine whether any of the settlement money
    was used to reimburse the attorneys for work performed in connection with the recall election
    and/or the Measure B initiative."

    And with the settlement over now in the bankruptcy, we will never get to the bottom of that either. The Lisa Board abounded with dicey moves - like the never discussed in public financial support for PZLDF. We never knew if we we were even billed the CSD's 25% with those redacted bills.

    By Blogger Sewertoons, at 3:17 PM, August 19, 2010  

  • Grand Juries can make an of a Ham Sandwich.
    Want info? File a FOIA Request or stop whining.

    By Blogger Watershed Mark, at 5:05 PM, August 19, 2010  

  • "r"'s Board "RUSHED" to make dat big ol' hole, which isn't dicey at all...It was the right thing to do.

    By Blogger Watershed Mark, at 5:08 PM, August 19, 2010  

  • Hi- WMark missed you a little teeny bit. AB 32 didn’t exist then.

    Public Comment at the hearings was excellent and compelling. I expected Jeff to not be there in ’07, but he still is. Smiling at us twice from Ron’s blog.
    Bev’s comment on a previous string Pre-sages the no comment.
    Nice stylistic touch Ron, obviously the WB appointees are chafing at the bit to discuss this, but for the pesky lawsuit. It would had been, I’m sure, sometime early on, possible for a waterboard lawyer to vacate the CDO’s against the 45 on procedural grounds, without vacating the waterboard’s authority to issue CDOs, or to refile, at a later date.
    Tossing them back in the pond so to speak.
    The primary injustice is the selectivity of the enforcement and the clear intention to use a small subset in order to send a message to the larger group.
    Certainly holding the 45 responsible for a majority vote of the population (Yes, including renters) which does appear as a stated rationale, is wrong.
    At other levels is the wrongness of using a procedure, clearly intended and SCALED for Large Corporations or municipal entities. The size of the daily fine is a tip-off.
    5000 $ a day (and I will not bother to re-look any of this up). The fines in the laws are scaled in order not to drive a business out of business. The complexity is well within the capacity of a corporation’s Legal/regulatory department and lawyers to take in stride.
    Ron you guessed at and Anne completed. The AG is the defender of the Waterboard. Perhaps The Ag office should have had the capacity to isolate and have lawyers represent each side as happens in the assignment of public defenders. Ron’s “Horrific arrangement”. Ordinary citizens simply don’t keep a regulatory lawyer on retainer.
    Yes, Ron. I hope we see a new(?) more fluid next-Gen Governator with almost human circuitry. Toons; Assuming that “Punishment” is what an agency whose goal is to protect the waters of California, to benefit it’s citizens, is supposed to do;
    The appropriate punishment would had been a continuation of notification of violation process or a prosecution of every Man Woman and Dog that dareth pisseth on a Wall within the prohibition zone. The CSD was still on the hook.
    But never a random incomplete partial prosecution. (Leaving the actual prosecution of people who may not had wanted that or any sewer to the thought police)

    However the post recall CSD was revealed to be, and remained; politically, legally and regulatorily naïve. It’s strategy was outside influenced. It was facing and we are in an unprecedented situation.

    And it remained easily distractible, kind of like here, where the Clementines of other municipalities are compared to the Los Osos Orange,( though it is interesting to read, and nicely written, fog).

    So, given that it is now, somewhere, not 2006 anymore; Why will a Gail/Shauna legal action work. Has there been a record of success, from that arena, that I am not aware of?

    BTW does anyone have or knows where I can find the recorded meeting? I’m missing 14 seconds in the transcript.

    Administrative Civil Liability )
    Complaint No. R3-2005-0137 )
    Re: Los Osos Community Services )
    District, Los Osos Wastewater )
    Project )
    San Luis Obispo County )

    By Blogger Alon Perlman, at 9:59 PM, August 19, 2010  

    The bill would require the state board to adopt a statewide greenhouse gas emissions limit equivalent to the statewide greenhouse gas emissions levels in 1990 to be achieved by 2020, as specified.

    The law exists “today” which is why a energy intensive leaky gravity sewerage connected to an energy intensive treatment technology approved in 2010/11 would not be compliant with AB32. The only way the project could remain compliant with AB32 is to leave the tanks alone.

    By Blogger Watershed Mark, at 11:07 PM, August 19, 2010  

  • Thanks for the link Wmark-That is a pre-signing form and the Law may had been altered in specifics since. I get what you are saying, and I do believe (and could prove) that a STEP system DESIGNED WITH VERY LIMITED TANK REPLACEMENT, would be not only be more AB 32 Compliant then the approved current project, but MUCH CHEAPER overall(as do you.)

    HOWEVER the project component/option of STEP as designed in the LOWWP EIR required 95% or more tank replacement to 1500 Gallon capacity if memory serves. It's upper costs scraped the bottom costs of the conventional system chosen. And the AB32 differential was not as significant as it would had been if a large number of septic tanks were simply kept in place.

    First let me add a few more corrections/clarifications.
    The Tri-W design as approved by the CCC for 2005 construction did not need to be AB32 Compliant.
    There is no further approval components by the State ARB, or Waterboard to the current design.
    There are sub components of plans within the current project still subject to sign off by the CCC, and sub components subject to approval by SLOCARB, but those are implementation components.

    Other than location, and distribution of project waters changes, (huge in themselves). This Giacomazzi is pretty much the Tri-W project design. (betcha that Nobody will waste time listing the differences; MBR. Negative pressure building, smell suppression. Wave-wall etc...)

    So as far as AB 32 is concerned, this project is T-W with longer main pipes and somewhat less Treatment plant energy costs. And this project DEIR WAS listed (in Sacramento) as having been a AB32 calculating/utilizing DEIR/Project. So, for all practical considerations, it HAS been deemed compliant.

    Given that I promoted STEP early in the TAC process, then shifted to the Tonini debacle during the PC meetings (and found a major AB32 inconsistency there). And that the County stated a gravity bias at the onset.

    Your Argument should apply to the question; What needed to be done to the STEP Alternative of the 4 alternatives that could had brought it's on lot disturbance down overall, thus reducing cost (Well below the gravity) as well as carbon impact (keeping it on the technical and leaving out legal issues)
    Or stated differently, When Dana Ripley stated to the planning commission (?) that it could be less than 95%, that was too little too late.
    Did Al Barrow /Gail McPherson influence this?
    And a variation of your favorite question- Why was vacuum not promoted along with STEP?
    Who should had stepped up and solved those STEP technical (and legal) issues earlier?
    Were/Are there any STEP experts in town?

    Word verification used in a sentence; I put down a lot of info Mark, I expect Nobody uses this to preak out.

    By Blogger Alon Perlman, at 3:42 PM, August 21, 2010  

  • Hi Alon,

    Thank you for your post above. Ha-ha on the verification! :-D

    I recall that the tank sizes needed to be increased to accommodate power outages. A lot of the building done around here was done on the cheap - smallest tanks possible. You can shower in cold water and flush with a bucket. Obviously you will not be running a washing machine unless you are off the grid and on your own solar or have a generator.

    I found it rather funny that it was Ripley that said (in 2003 maybe?) that 95% of the tanks needed replacing, and by the end of this process, to actually make it cheaper, he suggested the present tanks are fine and simply be lined.

    I also think on the Step side, the number of 25 foot lot homes that would need a concrete vault to go over the fiberglass tank in the driveway was not enumerated. If you require access to the tanks, you can't have them in the back yard or buried during the years that you don't pump.

    By Blogger Sewertoons, at 8:14 PM, August 21, 2010  

  • Quite a few false statements there and some exaggerations, but bringing up sources to fact-check for people who don't do it in return is a moot point.


    Just crossed my mind. There has been no update regarding the PZLDF lawsuits. Gail McPherson doesn't update her CCW site often (no transparency there), and I'm surprised (no, not really) that she hasn't publicly addressed these recent blog articles in some way. If Young isn't going to answer, she should -- that is, if she wanted to capitalize on the momentum that Ron instigated.

    By Blogger The Razor, at 10:23 AM, August 22, 2010  

  • Mark old chap

    I don't think AB32 will be implemented as scheduled In January because the bill had an escape hatch, allowing the Governor suspend it until our unemployment level drops from 12.5% to 5.5% for a period of one year.

    Proposition 23 will try to address that in November, one way or the other.

    It's interesting to read how money can go a long way toward shaping policies in Sacramento, even after the laws are made.

    Seemingly AB32 and Prop 23 are not just environmental issues, but also economic issues.
    Both sides touting the loss and gains in employment.

    By Blogger FOGSWAMP, at 12:33 PM, August 22, 2010  

  • Thank you for clearing , "The Fog".
    well wrote
    It did play a part in the recent election -Blakesley of course for rolling back- something about unemployment not being less than 5.5%/Year amost ever by Laird forces.
    Or is it almost never. 3 times ?
    To think of the number of trees cut down and pulped to place Squid gut scribbles on for the sake of an
    unimplamentable environmental law.
    Well, at least one person earned enough to solarize their house.

    By Blogger Alon Perlman, at 3:06 PM, August 22, 2010  

  • Alon

    Yep "unimplamentable" is a good way of describing it.

    It's interesting to follow the money and see who's bank rolling Prop 23, on both sides of the issue.

    It comes across like a turf-war between the Silicone Valley folk trying to sell us some more of the newer windmill type technology and a couple of out of state petrochemical companies selling us more of the old fossil fuels.

    By Blogger FOGSWAMP, at 7:17 PM, August 22, 2010  

  • Fog-
    How about this "change" for achange of pace:

    Quiet before the perfect storm: global economic news turns negative.
    Retail investors continue to flee the equity markets. Institutional players pile relentlessly into the perceived safety of yield instruments, even though they are outrageously expensive by any proven measure. Since US President Richard Nixon took the US off the Gold Standard in 1971, the increase in global fiat currency has been breathtaking. Apparent synthetic wealth has artificially and temporarily been created through the production of paper. Whether Federal Reserve IOU notes (US dollars) or guaranteed certificates of confiscation (US treasury notes & bonds) are being talked about, it needs to be remembered that these deceits are only paper. They are not wealth. They are someone else’s paper promise to deliver that wealth to the holder of the paper based on what that paper is felt to be worth when the obligation is required to be surrendered. Fiat paper is only a counterparty undertaking to deliver. But will any major counterparty ever be able to deliver fully now? Since fiat paper is no longer a store of value, it is recklessly being created to solve short-term political problems in the US and elsewhere in the West. What you will inevitably receive will be only be a fraction of the value of what you originally surrendered. More about the global banksters' debt scam here.

    By Blogger Watershed Mark, at 8:36 PM, August 22, 2010  

  • chapter 11
    the debt scam

    It is impossible to understand the global conspiracy unless we appreciate the background to the world money system.

    By Blogger Watershed Mark, at 8:39 PM, August 22, 2010  

  • SLOCO BOS should re-consider the current path and consider carefully just how much deeper they want to follow the state(WB) and federal governments into that hole.

    By Blogger Watershed Mark, at 8:42 PM, August 22, 2010  


    By Blogger Watershed Mark, at 8:50 PM, August 22, 2010  

  • What a mess:

    By Blogger Watershed Mark, at 8:53 PM, August 22, 2010  

  • WMark -The world is ending , We know, Is that an excuse not to roll all your comments into one, like this:
    Thanks Fogswamp. Yep let's jump in the Terra SUV and go out and buy some more new green because the Green we bought last year is starting to look down right brown next to the new model seen in High Def.

    One of the few times someone “Made me think” on a blog. And if the “Politically naive” lesson of Los Osos taught me something, it is -wait till the final version.

    Gutted environmental laws are worse then their absence. Not at all like dead whale carcasses.
    And last time I checked having the word Environmental in a law did not guarantee that the environment would be happy with the result.

    Given that my “exposure” to AB 32 was through the WWTP . I prefer going through the technical permutations before the politics (Somehow confuting intent with execution). And I did find a flaw in AB 32 reasoning that applied to Tonini, but that is moot.

    So to simplify my take-
    Example; A road has to go between A to B.
    However, midway between A and B is a grove of X trees. We can re- route the road to avoid the trees taking the road an additional M miles.
    We now have two projects.
    Project1. In the good o'l o'l days We would had cut the trees.
    Project 2. In the not so o'l g'days we would had gone all tree huggy and cut a long road.

    There otta be a law that recognizes that if we drive M additional miles (times cars per year etc...), That translates as if we chopped down Y trees.

    Now all we have to do is compare Y to X. Choosing project 1 over project 2 etc.. will have to factor other things in of course.
    So if AB32 is simply that Otta- Law – Great.
    Now to see if it is Mandate to Implementation roadworthy as is.
    then ask if it's only going to apply to 10% of projects...

    Conclusion; If this road is in Los Osos, it will end up built straight up to the trees, so that the cars crash into them. Because you can't get from A to B no-way, no-how in Los Egos 2010.

    By Blogger Alon Perlman, at 10:16 PM, August 22, 2010  

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