Sanitation district slams San Luis Obispo County Grand Jury
September 28, 2011
The South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District board fired back a response saying that the Grand Jury’s allegations of mismanagement at the district “were largely inaccurate,” which was posted on the Grand Jury website on Wednesday.
The South County Sanitation District provides sewer services to about 38,000 customers in Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach and the unincorporated town of Oceano. John Wallace is the chief administrator of the district and also owner and president of the Wallace Group, a private engineering consulting firm located in San Luis Obispo.
The Grand Jury reported in June that the district board failed to recognize this conflict of interest and to eliminate or, at minimum, mitigate the conflict of interest and that Wallace’s contract had never been competitively bid as required by law.
The three member district board said in its response, “The grand Jury’s depiction of the Board of directors as being as being generally unaware is both inaccurate and offensive.”
The board found no reason to follow the Grand Jury’s recommendations to hire an independent management and to evaluate and compare organizational and operational alternatives for the district.
Members of the local Surfrider Foundation said the directors’ response was “incomplete” and “disrespectful.”
“By institutionalizing these conflicts of interest, the board of directors may have indirectly contributed to multiple sewage spills and frequent water quality violations at their sewage treatment plant that discharges only 600 yards from the coast of Oceano and near Pismo Beach,” the group says on its website.
On December 18, as the result of influent pump failures, as much as 3 million gallons of raw sewage was dumped into Oceano neighborhoods, beaches and the Pacific Ocean.
State regulators responded in May and served the district another notice of violation because of the December spill and conflicting sewage release numbers. Wallace answered the violation in June and is awaiting the state’s response which could include fines of up to $30 million that would fall on the communities and the rate payers, and criminal action against district officials if it is determined they responded untruthfully.