Thursday, January 26, 2012

Los Osos, You're Welcome! SewerWatch Lifts the Town's 25 Year Building Moratorium. . . Right, Dr. Borenstein? Rrriiight, Dr. Borenstein?

"There is no 'better, faster, cheaper' solution that will meet the approval of the permitting agencies. Let's face it! It is NOT going to happen."
-- Gary Karner, February 25, 2005

Wanna see a great example of the petty, little games SLO County government officials play when a reporter is ready to expose an important story that involves their screw-ups?

This GREAT tale starts a couple of weeks back, when I stumbled onto a seven-year-old email from someone named, Matt Thompson, a former staffer at the local Water Quality Control Board, and, as soon as I read that one-paragraph email, I instantly recognized it as a bombshell in the entire Los Osos sewer saga, because it goes straight to my January 1 2007, prediction (with numerous follow-ups here in SewerWatch), that, based solely on official, primary source documents, the only thing preventing Los Osos from becoming a community of composting toilets and greywater systems, is a tiny, brittle thread of completely unsubstantiated, bureaucratic sleight-of-hand, BS.

Well, two weeks ago, I was able to cut that thread, and the resulting thud is a bombshell.

Thompson's email is in response to a Los Osos property owner that was "very interested in installing a composting toilet as an alternative (to illegally discharging out of her septic tank)," AND that was/is being prosecuted by the local Water Quality Control Board for continuing to discharge wastewater out of her home septic tank, after the local Water Quality Control Board made septic tank "discharge in the Los Osos "Prohibition Zone" illegal starting in 1983, and then, shortly thereafter, it became illegal to build (or even add on to) more homes in Los Osos until that "discharge" thing was figured out.

That "building moratorium" not only prohibits homeowners from adding on to their exisitng homes, but more importantly, it also prohibits about 600 vacant lot owners in Los Osos from building on their property at all.

Think about that, it's very interesting: Imagine owning (and paying property taxes) on a residential lot in Los Osos for some 20 years, and not being able to build a home on it, simply because it's illegal in Los Osos to discharge from a septic tank, and there's no sewer system in place. THAT's what the vacant lot owners in Los Osos have been dealing with for the past two decades.

Well, Los Osos vacant lot owners? Dust off your blueprints.

In the years following my 1/1/07 prediction, where local government officials have thrown millions of dollars at all of their consultant friends to design a ginormous, industrial, $200 million sewer system for the town, I have gone 'round and 'round with nearly every government agency involved with that massive project, asking them:

"What's stopping a property owner in the Los Osos 'Prohibition Zone' from filling their septic tank with sand (which would instantly bring that property owner in compliance with the 'no discharge out of the septic tank' law), and then, in a weekend, installing a composting toilet system -- a system the local Water Board, that drew up that 'no discharge' law in the first place, practically raves about, as I first exposed in my 5-year-old prediction -- and an 'appropriate greywater system,' and then, because that property owner would no longer be in violation of the 'discharge' law, they would have no need to hook up to, and, intensely importantly, help pay for that $200 million community-wide, industrial sewer system?"

That question... THAT question they absolutely refuse to answer, as I have nicely time-stamped, at this link:

http://sewerwatch.blogspot.com/2010/06/countys-worst-case-scenario-in-los-osos.html

... where I write to Supervisor, Bruce Gibson, asking him that exact question, and showing him the County's "worst case scenario," and he did absolutely nothing. Nothing.

Same with Public Works Director, Paavo Ogren. In 2008, I was in Ogren's office, with one of my blog posts on composting toilets pulled up on his computer, he told me he would read it later, and, when I turned to say, "Goodbye," to Ogren, over his shoulder, I could see this story:

http://sewerwatch.blogspot.com/2007/01/is-there-rosa-parks-in-los-osos.html

... where I first outlined ALL of this, on his desktop computer.

In the ensuing years, Ogren would pay millions to his consultant friends for the design of the massive sewer project, and completely ignore ALL of the tight, primary-source evidence I was showing him (and the entire Board of Supervisors, for that matter) that REEELLY pointed to Los Osos going composting toilets/greywater systems.

And now? Oh, have I got some bad news for them. I now have an official answer to my question, and that answer is a bombshell.

In his email, Thompson writes, "The Uniform Plumbing Code does not allow composting toilets unless approved by the local health officer."

After five years of "no reply" from SLO County government officials, I now know two VERY important things:

1) It's something called the "Uniform Plumbing Code" that governs the use of composting toilets in the county (who knew?).

and;

2) ... and this is GREAT: I now know whose call it is to "allow" composting toilets in the county, and that call boils down to one person, "the local health officer," and in SLO County, in 2012, the "local health officer" is one, Dr. Penny Borenstein.

Let the petty games begin... again.

Two weeks ago, I actually phoned Dr. Borenstein's office, to ask her if she would "allow" a composting toilet system in Los Osos -- a system that the State Water Board practically raves about, saying composting toilets are "one of the few alternatives available" in Los Osos, that "will improve water quality," and "doesn't require Coastal Commission approval" -- and left a message with Dr. Borenstein's secretary.

No reply.

In the ensuing week, two more emails and another phone call to Dr. Borenstein's office went completely ignored.

In the meantime, I also contacted, Harvey Packard, at the local Water Quality Control Board -- the agency responsible for the "no septic tank discharge" law in Los Osos -- and asked him a version of my long-time-unanswered, excellent question: "If a property owner in the Los Osos Prohibition Zone filled their septic tank with sand, and then installed a "local health officer" approved composting toilet system, and an "appropriate greywater system," and then, because that property owner would no longer have a drop of "discharge" coming out of their septic tank, would that property owner still be in violation of the "discharge" law, "Resolution 83-13?"

His bombshell of a response?:

"Our current practice throughout the region is to not directly regulate graywater systems that are in compliance with the state plumbing code (recently amended to make it easier for homeowners to install graywater systems). Some may argue that even code-complying systems discharge waste that could affect the quality of waters of the state, but we do not regulate them.

If a prohibition zone resident installed a graywater system and a composting toilet as you describe, that resident would not be in violation of Resolution No. 83-13."

Bomb-friggin'-shell!

1) His office doesn't even "regulate" greywater systems. Apparently, it would be like asking them if they would allow a wood burning fireplace. According to Packard, greywater system regulation isn't even in their jurisdiction.

and;

2) "If a prohibition zone resident installed a graywater system and a composting toilet as you describe (with a "decommissioned" septic tank), that resident would not be in violation of Resolution No. 83-13."

KA-BOOM!

More shelling:

I then asked Packard, if a vacant lot owner in Los Osos were to submit plans to the County for a home that included a "local health officer"-approved composting toilet system, and a UPC greywater system, would the local Water Board object?

He wrote, "In principle, we would not object to the lot owner's building a house in such a situation."

Building moratorium lifted. Vacant lot owners? You're welcome!

But, there's just one thing... one tiny, brittle thread that's preventing a vacant lot owner from finally building their dream home: The hard-to-pin-down, Dr. Borenstein.

So, last week, I tried a different tact to get through to Dr. Borenstein.

I contacted Supervisor Gibson, (remember him? The guy that completely ignored this super-important subject over the past five years), and sent him this email:

- - -
  • Hello Supervisor Gibson,

    I have GREAT news concerning Los Osos.

    Harvey Packard at the local Water Quality Control Board recently told me that his office, "in principle," "would not object" to a vacant lot owner in the Prohibition Zone building a home on their property, IF that home included an "advanced" composting toilet system, and a UPC approved greywater system, and NO septic tank.

    But, here's the hold-up: According to Mr. Packard's office, "The Uniform Plumbing Code does not allow composting toilets unless approved by the local health officer."

    Now, over the past week, I've phoned and emailed (twice) SLO County's "local health officer," Dr. Borenstein, asking her if she would "allow" composting toilets in SLO County, but she's yet to answer my question.

    In other words, it's really starting to look like the ONLY thing keeping a vacant lot owner in Los Osos from FINALLY being able to build on their property, is a simple, "Yes," from Dr. Borenstein, on composting toilets, that the staff of the RWQCB says "will" "improve water quality," in Los Osos, and is "one of the few alternatives available," and "does not require Coastal Commission approval."

    So, that's what this email is: Me asking you to ask Dr. Borenstein if she will "allow" a composting toilet system in SLO County. I admit, it's kind of a strange question, considering it's asking the director of environmental health in the county, whether she will "allow" a system that "will" "improve" the environmental health of the county.

    I mean, is there a "no" to that question?

    I figure that you might have better luck at getting a response from her. And, as you can imagine, the sooner the better on this one. The vacant lot owners have waited long enough, don't you think?

    Thank you in advance for your prompt response,
    Ron

    P.S. Mr. Packard also asked, "could the county satisfactorily assure us that the lot owner would not surreptitiously add plumbing fixtures after construction?"

    That sounds like an easy enough fix, right? Through some sort of simple inspection, like every year or two, or something like that? I'm sure your talented staff won't have a problem clearing that tiny hurdle.
  • - - -

    Zero response.

    So I sent a version of that email to my District's Supervisor, Jim Patterson, who has also completely ignored this primary-sourced, super-important subject, for the past five years.

    Zero response.

    And, now, here I am, nearly three weeks after I first contacted Dr. Borenstein's office, practically begging for an answer to this amazing question, and zero response.

    So now, it all boils down to that: The ONLY thing preventing a vacant lot owner in Los Osos from building on their property (for the first time in some 25 years), is one, simple, quick, "Yes," from Dr. Borenstein. [Just a sec... gotta fire-up the ol' SewerWatch intercom system: Ahem... Paging Dr. Borenstein. Dr. Penny Borenstein, please report to SewerWatch. Dr. Borenstein to SewerWatch, please.]

    And, just like I wrote to Gibson, considering it's asking the "local health officer" in the county whether she will "allow" a system that "will" "improve" the environmental health of the county... I mean, is there a "no" to that question?

    THAT's how close the 25-year-old Los Osos "building moratorium" is to being lifted.

    One, "yes," from one person.

    THAT... close.

    Silly, petty games, from seemingly respectable adults.

    More Petty Games, Bombshells, and The Bell Curve

    Then there's the role of the Bell Curve in all of this. In fact, it was the Bell Curve that led, in part, to my original 1/1/07 prediction, and the Bell Curve in this story is VERY interesting.

    My not-so-scientific, yet likely, guess on how the Bell Curve for the acceptance of composting toilets among property owners in Los Osos shapes up, is like this:

    On the far left side, you have the small group of property owners, that are, "No f-ing way will I EVER use a composting toilet, and if it gets to the point where that ends up being the ONLY cost effective solution in Los Osos, then I'm going to move!"

    Then, there's the middle of the Bell Curve, with the bulk of the population, that are, "Ewww, composting toilets? Well, I dunno... I mean, they are truly better, cheaper, faster, so, maybe? I mean... I dunno."

    Then, and in this Bell Curve, here's the extremely important part, on the far right of the graph, there's this tiny group: "I demand to use a composting toilet. I don't even care if it IS waaaay cheaper, OR what it'll do to my property value, because it's absolutely the right thing to do for the environment."

    Now, keep in mind, there are about 5,000 properties in Los Osos, and if just ONE of those property owners is this, "I demand to use a composting toilet," and, according to the Bell Curve, there almost certainly is, several of them, in fact, then something very dramatic will happen.

    But, before I get there, I need to set up another very interesting twist in this story, that ALSO involves petty games by local government officials.

    About four years ago, the County conducted a required Prop. 218 election, that asked PZ property owners in Los Osos if they were willing to tax themselves some $25,000 to pay for the proposed sewer system.

    That election passed with more than 80-percent of the vote.

    But here's the HUGE catch: By all indications, SLO County government types never did what I did: Simply email the staff at the CCWQCB, and ask them if a property owner would still be in violation of the "no discharge from a septic tank" law, if that individual property owner were to install a composting toilet/greywater system.

    The answer is, "no."

    Which poses two VERY interesting, and seemingly highly actionable, questions:

    1) Would the PZ property owners STILL have passed that Prop. 218 vote, had they been informed that there was a sewer "alternative" (CCWRQCB's word), that could be installed in a weekend, at a fraction of the cost of the sewer assessment, and is waaay "environmentally superior" to a gigantic, industrial, "energy hog" sewer system.

    [How would THAT play out in court? Pissed off PZ property owners showing up in court, and arguing that they were lied to about ALL of the "alternatives" in that Prop. 218 vote, and that the vote should be redone, with the composting toilet/greywater system in the mix?

    What a GREAT argument.]

    2) Will County officials STILL assess a PZ property owner to pay for the sewer, if that property owner were to, today, fill their septic tank with sand, and install a composting toilet/greywater system, and therefore have no need whatsoever to hook up to the sewer... or pay for it, OR, would the County voluntarily exempt that property owner from the already-passed sewer assessment, which would be the right thing to do.

    Let the petty games continue.

    I recently sent that amazing question to SLO County Public Works Director, Paavo Ogren.

    Zero response.

    I then sent that excellent question to Supervisor Gibson.

    Zero response.

    I then sent that excellent question to Supervisor Patterson.

    Zero response.

    So, not so surprisingly, still no official answer to this... to THIS: Would the County STILL assess a PZ property owner -- that took the highly prudent step of installing a composting toilet/greywater system -- for the cost of the sewer, even though they wouldn't need to hook up to it, and, thereby forcing that highly prudent, environmentally friendly property owner to go to court and argue "no benefit/no assessment," OR, would the County voluntarily exempt that property owner from the already-passed sewer assessment?

    If that happens, where a composting toilet/greywater system PZ property owner gets out of paying the sewer assessment?

    Watch this bombshell: Back to that Bell Curve.

    Let's just say only FIVE, out 5,000 properties, initially go the CT/GW route.

    If that happens, then that "worst case scenario" that I showed Gibson years ago -- a scenario where there's a $200 million sewer system in Los Osos that no one needs to hook up to, or pay for -- WILL happen, unless these petty officals become BIG fans of SewerWatch in a hurry.

    If just FIVE PZ property owners go the CT/GW route, AND are exempt from paying the $25,000 sewer assessment, here's what the Bell Curve shows WILL happen:

    MORE property owners on the far right side of that curve, are going to see that the CT/GW route is NO BIG DEAL at all -- in fact, likely, MUCH better, on many levels -- AND it will be waaaay cheaper, and they will do the exact same thing.

    And, if that number gets up to just, say, 5-percent of PZ property owners, then more of the property owners on the right side of that Bell Curve will also do the exact same thing, and, because now none of those properties are paying the assessment, that means the amount will increase for everyone else, until every property owner will either be economically forced to go the exact same route (unless they want to pay a bazillion dollars a month just to flush with water), or, likely, redo the entire Prop. 218 election, because a bazillion dollars a month was never part of the 218 deal.

    And then, EVERYTHING -- five years and some $10 million worth of design and planning -- will have to be redone, including the entire sewer design (minus the CT/GWers), AND whether it's even needed now at all, with composting toilets/UPC greywater systems in the mix... all because SLO County government officials completely ignored the primary source evidence that I showed them... years ago... that pointed to all of this happening.

    Of course, HAD Ogren and Gibson included composting toilets/greywater systems in their analysis, they wouldn't have been able to continue pay all of their longtime consultant friends millions of public dollars to design an industrial sewer system, like they did, and continue to do.

    Uh, Dr. Borenstein? Do you want to "improve water quality" in Los Osos, with the most "environmentally preferable" method (by far), and, of course, more importantly, make my January 1, 2007 prediction come true, or what?

    "Yes," or "No?"

    Please answer. The vacant lot owners have waited long enough, doncha think?

    ###

    37 Comments:

    • This comment has been removed by the author.

      By Blogger Sewertoons, at 2:31 AM, January 27, 2012  

    • Ah Ron, welcome back to your blog! Always entertaining!

      "(A) sewer 'alternative' (CCWRQCB's word), that could be installed in a weekend..."

      Tearing out the walls in a bathroom and perhaps expanding or rearranging the fixtures to accommodate a composting toilet—could be done in a weekend? Really?!

      When was the last time you remodeled your bathroom? How long did that take?

      (What is the person with one bathroom going to do in the meantime? Dig a hole in the yard? Rent a honey hut?)

      Did you ever even seen a composting toilet in person? They are HUGE.

      “The correct balance between oxygen, moisture, heat and organic material is needed to ensure a rich environment for the aerobic bacteria that transform the waste into fertilizing soil. This ensures odor-free operation and complete decomposition of waste.”

      Think the average homeowner is up to that task to ensure that "odor-free" part?

      Read more here:
      http://www.letsgogreen.com/how-composting-toilets-work.html

      And here:
      http://www.treehugger.com/culture/the-hot-poop-on-alternative-toilets.html

      Composting toilet user comments here are priceless:
      http://www.softtechreviews.com/general/composting-toilet-blog/

      Think if you needed to sell your house you'd have a lot of interested buyers?

      By Blogger Sewertoons, at 2:40 AM, January 27, 2012  

    • I'm thinking you are missing Ron's point, Toons. I think it has something to do with government and regulations, and how that’s like putting your socks on your mittens before lacing your boots.


      Actually Graywater may not be the best form of reintroducing waters into the deep aquifer anyway, either.

      How bout, prior to installing said composting toilet, razing your house and selling and shipping your septic tank to a foreign country. Where does the CDO go?

      By Blogger Alon Perlman, at 8:40 AM, January 27, 2012  

    • O.k, looks like we can plot 'toons on the far left side of that Bell Curve, and count... errr... it... out of the CT/GW running.

      That leaves 4,999 other properties in the PZ, and, just like I show in my piece, it'll only take ONE -- 1 out of 4,999 -- of these types: "Aw-hell-yeah, I'm puttin' in a composting toilet/UPC greywater system, and then I'm gonna argue 'no benefit/no assessment'," before 'toons, like evryone else in the PZ, is either economically forced to go the exact same route... or move.

      And, the vacant lots will be from scratch. No remodeling needed.

      Get Dr. B's "Yes" on a composting toilet (and, by the way, I meant to include this in my piece: I personally know property owners in SLO County that use composting toilets, with the county's approval, and it's no a big deal, at all) and a vacant lot owner could start the building process today... after 25 f-ing years.

      If you dig up the Envirolet promotional video on YouTube (which I don't feel like doing right now), the most shocking thing about it, is how completely UNshocking composting toilets are. (Boy, that movie is the scariest movie Paavo and Bruce will ever see.)

      Alon writes:

      "I'm thinking you are missing Ron's point, Toons."

      Uh, ya think?

      Same ol'...

      By Blogger Ron, at 10:20 AM, January 27, 2012  

    • The wastewater generated by kitchen sinks, garbage disposals and dishwashers is called blackwater. So where exactly was this water to go Ron? Or do you just eat out, or use only paper plates and plastic knives and forks? Or cheat and use the bathroom sink to wash your dishes? How do the restaurants in town deal with this fact?

      To do gray water appropriately costs a lot. But releasing it inappropriately, as many already do here in LO, (gray suds transversing lots into other people's property in worst case that I know about), is not helpful to our water quality situation. Neither are all the high tech ingredients in soaps and fabric softeners. Think the stores will stop selling non-biodegradable detergents? Suppose you have babies and wash diapers a lot? Think all the fecal coliform is killed in the wash? These are some of the points you missed—to make your point I guess.

      Who regulates the composting toilet to ensure that the composting is done properly and hauls away the results? I can see huge health issues on our tiny lots, if this "compost" was applied to landscaping, so some sort of regulation/pick up would be needed. How much would that cost?

      It isn't just the "ick" factor in the house, but outside too. And do you really see our citizens tending to the "harvest" in the way described that would make "compost" work?

      If this is such a hot idea, where was support for it when the sewer discussion was still open?

      You really haven't addressed a lot of the issues around your idea, you've just given us snappy bits of writing to make yourself sound clever. If you think people are going to stop this project to change direction, who heads up that charge? Who pays for the lawyers?

      Perhaps Dr. Borenstein is busy looking up all the regulations and codes that would need to be amended to accommodate 12,000 using composting toilets in such a small area and just hasn't gotten back to you yet? And can YOU Ron, point us to a town this size where composting toilets are already being used? That would be helpful. (STEP was killed in part as no place this big has ever used that system, there were a lot of unknowns).

      You could have written a clever article on the ironies here, but to extrapolate the concept to 12,000 people suddenly changing their minds to use composting toilets/graywater systems at an unknown cost is just, well, kinda absurd, weakening your argument to outright silliness. Or maybe that was your point—to get us to laugh...? Well, that part worked anyway.

      By Blogger Sewertoons, at 12:45 PM, January 27, 2012  

    • ^ What a bitch.

      By Blogger SLOTowner, at 1:45 PM, January 27, 2012  

    • For purposes of clarification it's worth noting that all those years ago the person who asked Matt Thompson about installing a composting toilet as a way to escape CCRWQCB prosecution was not acting in response to a Prohibition Zone-wide CCRWQCB prosecution. That person was being prosecuted for having had the bad luck to be chosen AT RANDOM, along with 44 other households, to face hearings, harassment, and the ongoing expense of having the septic tank pumped and inspected every three years to this day whether it needs it or not. This ongoing enforcement against a mere 45 Los Osos families is the work product of CCRWQCB staff who were paid to devise it in 2005-6 as their best-guess method of cleaning up the waters of the state in Los Osos.

      Lacking all pretense of logic or reason, or any nod to effectiveness or efficiency, the issuance of CDOs was unrelated to how much water a household discharged daily into the aquifer, how many residents occupied that household, how many incidental daily/weekly users the plumbing accommodated, or whether or not there was a home-based business on the premises that utilized and discharged water. In addition, the prosecution targeted no commercial businesses no matter how much effluent they discharged into the aquifer. According to the CCRWQCB staff in their drive to clean up the waters of the state the CDOs were "fairly" distributed and continue to be "fairly" enforced by the sheer virtue of their "randomness."

      I raise this issue yet again because just last week a very bright and aware Los Osos resident mentioned to me that we must be relieved not to have to deal with the water board anymore. Once again I faced a Los Osos householder's face that was shocked and confounded to learn that nothing has changed. Few know about the ongoing water board enforcement actions for the simple reason that no one cares to write about them anymore, except Ron and Ann. No one cares.

      By Blogger Bev. De Witt-Moylan, at 7:39 PM, January 27, 2012  

    • Re Ron's quoting from a letter from Harvey Packard (RWQCB staff) that "in principle" the RWQCB doesn't object to greywater or composting toilets,etc. Before anyone takes that letter to heart, they need to review the tapes of the RWQCB's Mad Hatter Tea Party and Torquemada's Auto de Fe CDO Trials. That would be ample demonstration that nothing Harvey Packard says, nothing "the staff" has to say and, actually, nothing the Board says has any credibility whatsoever. They use words like Humpty-Dumpty in Alice in Wonderland,( "when I use a word it means exactly what I say it shall men, neither more nor less.") And whatever meaning they invent can change on a whim and slip the bonds of rationality and even common sense. After all, these are the people who slapped CDOs on 45 "random" people, found them guilty of polluting the groundwaters of the state of California (while, under oath, declaring that they had no emperical evidence to that fact) but declared that if said CDO-holder sells his house and moves, the CDO goes away. It does not stay on/with the "polluting" septic tank. Nope. Poof. It disappears. Even though I know of nobody who moved and dug up his septic tank and took it with him. Which means the new CDO-free homeowner is using the same tank but somehow is NOT polluting. It's Magic.

      So, pity the poor homeowner who believes Harvey's letter and builds himself a house with a composting toilet and approved greywater system and then -- guaranteed -- gets another letter from Harvey telling him he must Cease and Desist "discharging" and the poor fool waves his original letter and says, "Hey! it says right here" and receives either silence followed by a CDO or receives another letter from Harvey that says, -- falsely -- "I always never didn't say that," followed by a CDO.

      In short, nobody should take anything anyone from the RWQCB says seriously. Their word is worthless. They are a regulatory agency run amok, with little or no science, no checks or balances and, clearly, no common sense and certainly NO veracity. While Ron is having a great time with this story, a real person in the real world who trusts the RWQCB in any way, shape or form, does so at his very real peril.

      By Blogger Churadogs, at 6:02 AM, January 28, 2012  

    • I too thought they had been lifted. I thought Supervisor Gibson was supposed to take care of that. What a waste he has been as our Supervisor. Actually, what he has cost us as our Supervisor. His true colors really shine though in the Adam Hill controversy going on now. Hopefully he will serve out his term and then leave us alone.
      Sincerely, M

      By Blogger M, at 6:02 AM, January 28, 2012  

    • 'toons writes:

      "If this is such a hot idea, where was support for it when the sewer discussion was still open?"

      Hot idea? Yes. Popular idea? Hell no.

      In fact, this could be that "Kumbaya" moment that Shallcross talked about, where 99.9% of LO comes together -- Pandora and Julie, EVERY Real Estate agent, anyone that's concerned with their property value... 99.9-friggin-percent.

      But, here's the deal: This ISN'T a "majority rules" thing. It's only going to take ONE independent-minded, individual property owner (vacant would be likely) to get a "yes" from Dr. B., before you ALL are economically forced to do the exact the same thing. (I guess 'toons just doesn't understand how a bell curve works.)

      And, 'toons? You DO realize that I don't make greywater law, right?

      That's the job of the State legislature, who "recently amended to make (the plumbing code) to make it easier for homeowners to install graywater systems," according to Packard.

      If you have problems with the way the law is written, then you and your friends need to fire up your "behavior based marketing" machine and head up to Sacramento (in a hurry), in (what surely will be) a futile effort to get them to change their recently amended greywater laws.

      "If you think people are going to stop this project to change direction, who heads up that charge?"

      Again, you're not grasping this story. The CT/GWers won't care if the project's stopped, or not.

      I'm just saying that, unless the BOS become HUGE fans of SewerWatch (in a hurry), there's going to be a $200 million sewer system in Los Osos that no one needs to hook up to or pay for.

      toons:

      "And can YOU Ron, point us to a town this size where composting toilets are already being used?"

      I can show you three: "Los Osos, like Victoria British Colombia, Halifax Nova Scotia, and King City Ontario could look at composting toilets to meet their community needs."

      That's that great quote from that brilliant Canadian wastewater expert, that I cite in my original, FIVE YEAR OLD prediction, at this link

      Bev writes:

      "Few know about the ongoing water board enforcement actions for the simple reason that no one cares to write about them anymore, except Ron and Ann. No one cares."

      You can blame our "worse than nothing" local "press" for that. Grade: F-

      Chura writes:

      "... builds himself a house with a composting toilet and approved greywater system and then -- guaranteed -- gets another letter from Harvey telling him he must Cease and Desist "discharging""

      "Guaranteed?" Sure about that one?

      "We do not regulate greywater systems," sound A LOT to me that they do not regulate greywater systems, and the composting toilets idea, was their's to begin with... where they rave about them... in a document, and, again, it's not even their call. According to the UPC, it's the "local health officer's" call.

      M writes:

      "What a waste he has been as our Supervisor."

      How 'bout Bruce, here? Whada joke. He has a beautiful opportunity to FINALLY allow the vacant lot owners to build, and he does NOTHING.

      What a complete waste of a Supervisor.

      M writes:

      "Hopefully he will serve out his term and then leave us alone."

      Right, so you guys can get another Pandora Puppet in there... just like Bud, and Shirley. 22-years-and-counting of Pandora Puppet Supervisors in the 2nd District. Is it any wonder why Los Osos is such a mess?

      By Blogger Ron, at 10:35 AM, January 28, 2012  

    • I want to add something to M's point:

      "Hopefully he will serve out his term..."

      Because I showed both Bruce and Paavo all of this primary-source info years ago, and they both completely ignored it, while throwing millions at their consultant friends, and then, five years, and some $10 million later, I'm shown to be 100-percent right, Paavo should be fired for lying about the CT/GW option, and Bruce should either resign or face a recall election.

      By deliberately preventing the vacant lot owners from building...for years, just so he could funnel more money to his, and Paavo's consultant friends, he doesn't deserve to "serve out his term."

      By Blogger Ron, at 10:50 AM, January 28, 2012  

    • That's what I meant Ron. I just figured he must not have much time left as Supervisor.
      Sincerely, M

      By Blogger M, at 12:04 PM, January 28, 2012  

    • M says,
      "I too thought they had been lifted. I thought Supervisor Gibson was supposed to take care of that."

      Yes, Gibson tried, but because the last PZLDF case that was lost once again was APPEALED, the Water Board said NO.

      You can real about it on The ROCK.

      By Blogger Sewertoons, at 12:28 PM, January 28, 2012  

    • If you did get a permit for the composting toilet and the gray water system, where does your kitchen sink and diaper wash water go?

      By Blogger Sewertoons, at 12:30 PM, January 28, 2012  

    • Ron,

      You failed to ask Packard the most important question, which is: "If I have a composting toilet, do I still have to pay the assessment and hook up to the sewer?"

      And the answer is yes, you still do. So now you are paying for both the composting toilet AND the sewer. Did you think about that catch-22?

      Yes, the RWQCB will allow you to install a composting toilet, but it is still no get-out-of-jail card from the sewer prison.

      INSTALL doesn't mean USE.

      They will permit you to INSTALL it -- or any device for that matter -- but the County will not permit you to USE it until you have met all requirements for any subsurface disposal and odor control (etc.) on the property AND the County subsequently tests, inspects and stamps it OK for use.

      And that STILL doesn't unchain you from the sewer and its costs.

      So what's the point?

      By Blogger Pechomon, at 3:11 PM, January 28, 2012  

    • On British Columbia, Salt Spring Island, where resources are very tight, I found this:

      http://www.crd.bc.ca/buildinginspection/documents/sustainabilitycheck1.pdf

      A waterless composting toilet is permitted
      and is the ultimate water saving device, but
      a septic system must still be installed to
      handle wastewater, grease and food debris
      from kitchen sinks, and to meet regulatory
      requirements. A registered practitioner is
      required to design and install residential
      wastewater systems in BC.


      I might go on to the other areas that you mentioned Ron, but how do we who have kitchens in our homes, and how do the restaurant owners in LO, get around that discharge which cannot go into a graywater system?

      By Blogger Sewertoons, at 8:10 PM, January 28, 2012  

    • This comment has been removed by the author.

      By Blogger Sewertoons, at 9:11 PM, January 28, 2012  

    • Ron,

      Check out page 6 of this document off the Sierra Club's site if you do not understand what graywater is:

      http://santalucia.sierraclub.org/documents/Graywater_08_20_09.pdf

      I'll quote the important part:

      "Graywater is kept separate from
      blackwater, which comes from kitchen
      sinks, dishwashers and toilets."

      By Blogger Sewertoons, at 9:12 PM, January 28, 2012  

    • Pecho wtites:

      "You failed to ask Packard the most important question, which is: If I have a composting toilet, do I still have to pay the assessment and hook up to the sewer?""

      Well, if you read my piece, you'll see that I did ask that question, but not to Packard, because that's not the RWQCB's call. That's the county's call.

      So, as I show, I asked Paavo that question. No response.

      I then asked Bruce that question. No response.

      I then asked Patterson that question. No response.

      In fact, the question I asked them is kinda funny: Would they voluntarily exempt a CT/GWer from the assessment for doing the right thing, OR would they force that highly prudent property owner to go to court and argue "no benefit/no assessment?"

      And, as I've reported before, a leading property rights attorney has already told me, as far as he knows, "there's no case law" for a property owner "taking steps to render a benefit obsolete" AFTER a Prop 218 assessment is passed.

      That's that SUPER-risky $200 million "no case law" gamble, Paavo and Bruce are taking, and I that write about somewhere on SewerWatch... that I don't feel like digging up right now.

      And, yeah... It's really hard to get a question answered, when the officals with that answer flat-out-right refuse to answer the question... which is a main point in my piece.

      Pecho:

      "And the answer is yes, you still do."

      Nope. The answer is "no case law." Of course, like I write, the county COULD just do the right thing, and EXEMPT that highly prudent property owner for doing the right thing.

      Of course, what I'm not sure on, is if the vacant lot owners are part of the Prop. 218 assessment.

      If not, then they wouldn't even have to worry about that. Nothing's stopping them from going CT/GW, and beginning the building process today.

      'toons, you're having one of your usual massive mental blocks.

      You're asking me questions that you should be asking to the SLO County Planning Department.

      All I'm doing is quoting building law: Get a "local health officer"-approved composting toilet system, and a UPC-approved greywater system, and you're good to go, according to State law.

      If you have a problem with that (and apparently you do) you need to take that up with State lawmakers, not me.

      Earth to 'toons: For the second time, I do not make State law.

      Ya know, if you could read, 'toons, you would have seen where I quote Packard: "Some may argue that even code-complying systems discharge waste that could affect the quality of waters of the state, but we do not regulate them."

      I guess you're one of those "some"s.

      Sacramento's north. Have fun.

      By Blogger Ron, at 9:38 AM, January 29, 2012  

    • 'toons -- Good news!

      I found the right person in the county for all of your greywater questions: Paavo Ogren.

      "Ogren installed a greywater plumbing system in his San Luis Obispo house..."

      http://archive.newtimesslo.com/index.php?p=showarticle&id=3215

      ... where he's quoted:

      ""Environmental professionalism is a good business practice for the county that leads to better decisions and more efficient outcomes, saving taxpayers' money."

      Right, Paav. So why don't you answer my questions?

      That's not very "environmentally professional."

      By Blogger Ron, at 10:16 AM, January 29, 2012  

    • Ron,

      Sorry, you don't make yourself very clear, so it's difficult to get a handle on your argument:

      In fact, the question I asked them is kinda funny: Would they voluntarily exempt a CT/GWer from the assessment for doing the right thing, OR would they force that highly prudent property owner to go to court and argue "no benefit/no assessment?"

      You admit you've gotten "no response" from anybody -- "no response" is NOT A RESPONSE -- so you're basing your "beliefs" on...

      a leading property rights attorney has already told me, as far as he knows, "there's no case law" for a property owner "taking steps to render a benefit obsolete" AFTER a Prop 218 assessment is passed.

      Your "leading property rights attorney" obviously wants nothing to do with Los Osos! Guess your crying composter either didn't sue -- or did -- but wasted her bucks on a not-so-leading attorney.

      Whoever put in a compositing toilet BEFORE the 218, doesn't have Barry Tolle's signature on a permit to use, not just to install, and didn't go to court -- is going to be assessed and pay to hook up.

      "Do the Right Thing" is a Spike Lee movie, not a legal reason to do anything. If it was, there would be no sewer.

      By Blogger Pechomon, at 12:13 PM, January 29, 2012  

    • Ron, what you didn't answer is, did all of the water from Mr. Ogren's house going into the graywater system - that is, was the water from the kitchen sink INCLUDED? I think not and here's why:

      Read here:

      http://energycenter.org/index.php/technical-assistance/climate-change/climate-change-news/1701-new-california-gray-water-code-adopted

      "Water containing hazardous chemicals or used to wash diapers or infectious garments cannot be used."

      "Water cannot come from kitchen sinks or toilets."


      Then the source of THAT citation, see page 4:

      http://www.hcd.ca.gov/codes/shl/2007CPC_Graywater_Complete_2-2-10.pdf

      "Pursuant to Health and Safety Code Section 17922.12, "graywater" means untreated wastewater that has not been contaminated by any toilet discharge, has not been affected by infectious, contaminated, or unhealthy bodily wastes, and does not present a threat from contamination by unhealthful processing, manufacturing, or operating wastes. "Graywater" includes but is not limited to wastewater from bathtubs, showers, bathroom washbasins, clothes washing machines, and laundry tubs, but does not include wastewater from kitchen sinks or dishwashers."

      And on page 5:

      "9. Water used to wash diapers or similarly soiled or infectious garments shall not be used and shall be diverted to the building sewer."

      OK, so do you want to AGAIN try to explain how a house WITH A KITCHEN, using a graywater system WHICH FORBIDS USING A KITCHEN SINK OR DISHWASHER, does not discharge, (we'll let the dirty diaper part go for now)?

      By Blogger Sewertoons, at 12:23 PM, January 29, 2012  

    • And for geeks that want more - the homework part Ron should have done:

      http://www.hcd.ca.gov/codes/shl/graywater_emergency.html

      By Blogger Sewertoons, at 12:28 PM, January 29, 2012  

    • Pecho writes:

      "Guess your crying composter either didn't sue..."

      As far as I know, that person has not sued... yet. But, wait'll she finds out that she was lied to, five years ago, about attempting to comply with the law.

      Sounds like that person would have an awesome case.

      I mean, look what happened there. It's disgusting:

      The RWQCB launches into hard-core enforcement on a tiny handful of Los Ososans (many elderly), for a GIGANTIC mistake that the State, itself, made (in permitting the Tri-W disaster, simply because they got lazy, and failed to do their jobs), THEN, one of those completely innocent people that gets hard-core prosecuted by the State for the State's gigantic mistake, practically begs them to comply with the law, by OFFERING to install a composting toilet, the State then immediately lies to that person, forces that person to continue to violate the law, and then the State continues to hard-core prosecute that completely innocent person for a gigantic mistake that the State itself made.

      Dis-gust-ing.

      Man, I'd LOVE to see that end up in court. I'd offer my services pro bono for that case.

      And, 'toons, look, I get it! You've made your point. You're not down with CT/GW. That's fine. I actually expect most to be like you. I've ALREADY plotted you to the left of my Bell Curve. You can continue to rant about how you don't like State law, if you want (and I'm sure you will) but, like I write above, Sacramento's that way. Go whine to them.

      Now, the OTHER 4,999 property owners need to weigh in, and, ideally, here's the one I'm looking for:

      A vacant lot owner, that will have no more than two people living in their home (no kids), and those two people are environmentally conscience, and their vacant lot isn't tiny.

      Then, that property owner contacts Dr. B., shows her their plans for ONE composting toilet, gets that "yes," ('cause, frankly, there would be ZERO reason, other than political, to turn down that request), and then simply submits his/her plans, with that e-mail from Packard stapled to it, and that includes a CT/GW system, to the Planning Department to build a modern, efficient, beautiful home on their property... after 25 f-ing years.

      How is that a problem?

      What would the Planning Department do? Say "no?"

      There would be no reason to say, "No," OTHER than purely political reasons. [By the way, I've got a case of Heineken that says Bruce has already lobbed off a phone call to good ol' Dr. B. on this issue, LOBBYING her to NOT allow the vacant lot owners to build. Ah, that's the level of leadership I've come to expect from the 2nd District Supervisor.]

      My problem is getting my blog post in front of THAT property owner. Now, I know my blog is popular, but is it THAT popular -- where it reaches the above-mentioned vacant lot owner on right side of my Bell Curve, because I'm absolutely positive that, because I got here first, the rest of the useless, worse-than-nothing local media now will not touch this amazing story, that lifts the 25 year building moratorium in Los Osos.

      This will be my row to hoe alone... as usual.

      Oh, and Pechoman, I'll just go ahead and plot you to the left of that Bell Curve, as well.

      2 down, 4,998 to go.

      By Blogger Ron, at 10:31 AM, January 30, 2012  

    • No Ron, you don't "get" it. Please just explain how you can discharge (kitchen sink, dishwasher water and diaper water) SOMEWHERE, as it is NOT going into the graywater system - according to STATE LAW!

      (No wait, you're trying to tell us to divert THAT water into the composting toilet??????)

      Please link us to State Law that proves the above mentioned waters can go into a graywater system, OK?

      By Blogger Sewertoons, at 11:31 AM, January 30, 2012  

    • Man, I'd LOVE to see that end up in court. I'd offer my services pro bono for that case.

      Ron, just what services would those be—are you an attorney?

      By Blogger Sewertoons, at 1:41 PM, January 30, 2012  

    • Public Works claims that because the assessment passed we will have to pay for the sewer, period. We can do whatever we want but we are on the hook for the cash. Whether that is legal given that they did not disclose alternative ways to comply with 83-13 is another matter. More importantly they did not disclose that our drinking water supply is shot. How is anyone ever going to build when sea water intrusion is rushing in. Oh yeah, Paavo's Naciemento or maybe SLO Greenbuild's "appropriate technologies" will magically balance our basin where sea water intrusion is moving 12x faster than the County's estimates.

      By Blogger Piper, at 2:55 PM, February 13, 2012  

    • Piper says:

      Whether that is legal given that they did not disclose alternative ways to comply with 83-13 is another matter.

      I guess you missed all of the TAC meetings the County held in 2008. ALL of that WAS discussed. The Tech Memos cover alternatives too.

      Sadly, the drinking water supply could only be protected by the heavy conservation measures a wastewater project could fund. Missed the boat on that back in the early 2000's when the project was delayed, delayed, delayed. Well, we might do some conservation fairly soon, but the bulk won't happen until we are past the halfway mark on updating toilets, etc. to be able to hook up to the project. That is 10 years of water conservation that didn't happen due to nitpicking over the location - the location having overwhelmingly been fine with the town in 1999. Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face...

      By Blogger Sewertoons AKA Lynette Tornatzky, at 7:57 PM, February 14, 2012  

    • Ron hasn't been back in a while. Maybe he is still trying to figure out a way around the State's graywater laws?

      By Blogger Sewertoons AKA Lynette Tornatzky, at 7:59 PM, February 14, 2012  

    • No offense Lynette but your rhetorical crap is sometimes so silly. Your conservation argument is ludicrous, the TAC was a fix filled w/ bogus information. It is all so sad. Driven by nothing other than greed and prejudice, this foul scam may very well destroy a town.

      By Blogger Piper, at 9:10 PM, February 14, 2012  

    • Piper, you just go with your opinions, that's fine. The sewer is coming—finally—and we can start some meaningful conservation and move some wells and hopefully do some ag exchange. I hope that it is not too late. What either of us THINKS is of little consequence, it is out of our hands. That's another thing that the recall and Measure B lost us—local control of the sewer project.

      By Blogger Sewertoons AKA Lynette Tornatzky, at 1:59 AM, February 15, 2012  

    • Piper writes:

      "Public Works claims that because the assessment passed we will have to pay for the sewer, period."

      I'm gonna need to see a source on that.

      Because:

      1) As I show in my piece, I attempted to get the Public Works Dept. to answer that question, and they flat-out refuse to answer it, BUT, like I also show in my piece, and write about in my comments above, that "claim" may be what the County thinks, but my excellent Attorney source says, "no case law" on that -- on a property owner going to court and arguing "no benefit/no assessment," and getting out of that assessment... a critical point in my story.

      and;

      2) Apparently, I've answered my own question. From what I understand (because no one is refuting it) the vacant lot owners are NOT under that assessment. So they can just go the CT/GW route, and begin the building process today (rrrriggghhht, Dr. Borenstein?) and not even have to worry about that whole assessment thing.

      Bang! Done. Let the building begin! It'll be good for the local construction industry. (COLAB? You're welcome. And, speaking of local organizations, I'm sure ol' Santa Lucia Sierra Club, and SLO Green Build will be pressuring the County now to do a composting toilet test case... right, Andrew and Lana? Rrrrriiiggghhht, Andrew and Lana?)

      Piper writes:

      "Whether that is legal given that they did not disclose alternative ways to comply with 83-13 is another matter."

      Yep, and that could be an extremely interesting "another matter," as I point out in my piece, where I write:

      "[How would THAT play out in court? Pissed off PZ property owners showing up in court, and arguing that they were lied to about ALL of the "alternatives" in that Prop. 218 vote, and that the vote should be redone, with the composting toilet/greywater system in the mix?

      What a GREAT argument.]
      "

      Wouldn't that be great? I'd pay to be in that courtroom.

      'toons writes:

      "Ron hasn't been back in a while."

      'toons, I realize this will come as a shock to you, but, unlike you, not everyone has the urge to compulsively comment on every word... on every post... on every blog... everywhere.

      "If a prohibition zone resident installed a graywater system and a composting toilet as you describe, that resident would not be in violation of Resolution No. 83-13."
      -- Harvey Packard, to SewerWatch, Feb. 2012

      By Blogger Ron, at 10:06 AM, February 15, 2012  

    • More fun with Yin/Yang:

      Yin:

      'toons writes:

      "That's another thing that the recall and Measure B lost us—local control of the sewer project."

      Yang:

      "I hope the CSD gets fined out of existence..."
      -- Pandora Nash-Karner, Sept. 28, 2005, one day after the LOCSD recall election

      - - -
      - - -

      Yin:

      'toons writes:

      "That's another thing that the recall and Measure B lost us—local control of the sewer project."

      Yang:

      "... could the LOCSD transfer the sewer project to the county BEFORE the current CSD-3 leave office?"
      -- (A panicked) Pandora Nash-Karner, September 28, 2005, the night of LOCSD recall election

      And, just for kicks:

      "Please do NOT copy the concepts in your letter, otherwise, the media will recognize our efforts as a group effort and we lose our credibility."
      -- Pandora Nash-Karner, 8/9/05

      Awww gawwd, you guys are hilarious. Thanks for the opportunity to reset all of that... Hilarious.

      By Blogger Ron, at 10:26 AM, February 15, 2012  

    • Ron, you have snowstormed right over my question and evaded giving an answer! Think I wouldn't notice? OK, I'll try again:

      Where does it say IN STATE LAW (not a quote from Harvey Packard), that kitchen water, dishwasher water and dirty diaper water can go into a graywater system? Just point us to where that exists in STATE LAW, OK?

      With no place to put THAT water but into the ground, you have a non-premise to extrapolate scenarios using composting toilets and graywater systems. The RWQCB would be all over you for DISCHARGE. Remember those little things called CDOs?

      As for a vacant lot owner building on it, too laughable to respond to.

      Just because one person writes an angry letter about how to get the sewer built, so what? This just brings me back to the reason for that letter:

      Did the current project turn out to be cheaper?



      But back to the main topic. We are still waiting for that graywater answer. Please inform us on how you think we can LEGALLY discharge dirty diaper water, etc. into a graywater system next time you come on here, OK Ron?

      By Blogger Sewertoons AKA Lynette Tornatzky, at 12:48 PM, February 15, 2012  

    • For every post Lynette makes, her five step-grandkids will be reminded why the Tornatzkys will fail for the rest of their lives. It's over for that horrible, disgusting family.

      By Blogger SLOTowner, at 6:34 PM, February 15, 2012  

    • Off the mark again, as usual SLOT, with WRONG information.

      By Blogger Sewertoons AKA Lynette Tornatzky, at 11:40 PM, February 15, 2012  

    • Five kids, not grandkids! Still, it's over. You're done, bitch.

      By Blogger SLOTowner, at 1:37 AM, February 16, 2012  

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