Sanitation district discharging fecal matter into the ocean

October 5, 2012

John Wallace

By KAREN VELIE

Shortly after a hearing that determined the South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District had to pay a $1.1 million fine for spilling sewage into the environment, water board prosecutors said the district is facing further fines for again violating its permit requirements.

On Sept. 28, plant employees sent a sample of effluent being released into the Pacific Ocean to a lab which reported it had a fecal coliform content of 50,000 MPN (most probable number of fecal coliform per ml). Anything over 2,200 violates the district’s operating permit and requires a mandatory penalty.

Last week’s event was the second time in less than 90 days that effluent testing showed fecal coliform levels at more than 30,000 per MPN.

Surfing and swimming in waters with high levels of fecal coliform increases the chance of developing illness from bacteria entering the body through the mouth, nose, ears or cuts in the skin. Diseases and illnesses caused by contact with water high in fecal coliform counts include pneumonia, hepatitis, gastroenteritis, dysentery and ear infections.

In the past, high coliform levels at the plant have primarily been blamed on issues with chlorination equipment malfunctioning. However, in this case, the levels of chlorine residue in the sample were unusually high, which means that the effluent contained fecal chunks the chemical was unable to penetrate.

On Wednesday, the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board determined that a 2010 raw sewage spill in Oceano was due to careless and improper maintenance at the plant. At the end of the hearing, water board prosecutor Julie Macedo said that while an investigation into last week’s violation was being launched, the board did not consider it when rendering their decision.

“This information was not considered by the board when making its decision,” Macedo said.

Former sanitation plant employees Devina Douglas and Scott Mascolo said in 2010 a plant supervisor instructed staff to manipulate effluent release numbers by dumping bad samples or testing incorrectly in order to keep the public from knowing the aging plant was in need of a complete upgrade.

“In the past, the plant only tested to 1,600 MPN though the permit said they had to test to 16,000 MPN,” Mascolo said. “Jeff Appleton, the former plant superintendent, told me it gave us wiggle room because if you didn’t perform the test correctly it couldn’t be used to give an accurate number. And you would just do the test the next day because it didn’t have to be tested every day then.”

After discovering the employees had filed regulatory complaints, plant administrators terminated both Douglas and Mascolo. Both have filed suits for wrongful termination. Douglas received a settlement while Mascolo’s case continues to make its way through the system.

Mascolo contends that John Wallace, the chief administrator of the district that provides sewer services to Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach and the unincorporated town of Oceano, has been funneling thousands of dollars to an engineering company he owns while concealing environmental violations.

Wallace is the owner and president of the Wallace Group, a private engineering consulting firm located in San Luis Obispo, that the district pays between $50,000 and $80,000 a month for engineering, consulting and administrative work.

 


65 Comments

  1. Jorge Estrada says:

    Did you catch the news today, the east coast is flushing into the rivers thence the Atlantic. In addition, some hospitals life supports are failed so the patients are being moved to hospitals that have electricity and working standby generators. There is so much that we can’t control and yet there are always people that have to blame something or someone. That’s what happens when there is a pay check for finding blame.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  2. TheLoneGunman says:

    The first California Attorney General complaint against John Wallace has been filed. Please vist:
    http://www.facebook.com/southcounty.oversightgroup
    for more information.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  3. TheLoneGunman says:

    The $1.1 MILLION DOLLAR fine was NOT discussed at tonight’s Arroyo Grande City Council Meeting. The only comment was made by Tony Feraro, “I’ll give a report on the San Dist at the next meeting”.

    At this point, we have no other option but to believe that the Council Members must approve of Mayor Ferraro’s actions and decisions regarding the Sanitation District.

    We are currently preparing California Attorney General complaints not only against Wallace/Ferraro/Nicolls, but will now also include complaints against each individual member of the Arroyo Grande City Council for negligence in protecting the Public’s best interest.

    We thought that at least one person on the Arroyo Grande City Council would be honest enough to bring this subject to table and discuss it in an open forum.

    Apparently we were wrong.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2

    • doggin says:

      Unbelievable yet at the same time expected. No details, transparency or hopes of making a bad situation better. Please provide a location or contact person(s) for signatures if a petition is intended.
      Thank You

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  4. SLOBIRD says:

    I wonder if Jon $eitz’s wife still works for Wallace in his office. Does anyone know? Jon $eitz then passes to Mike $eitz, very interesting!!!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

    • doggin says:

      Mike’s wife was the Wallace groups Human resources person some time ago, she supposedly moved on since then. I have never heard that Jon’s wife works their but anythings possible. Mike told the public in a Board meeting that he did NOT work for Wallace, but when a phone call was made to Wallace’s office to inquire Wallace’s own employee told the caller that Mike sits in on every Wallace group meeting to advise. Perhaps he is a major share holder in the W/G if nothing else. Bottom line is he dosent work for the public best interest. He is doing a damn fine job of performing as a corporate scumbag lawyer for his buddies though.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

    • soccermom says:

      Neither of the Seitz’s spouses work for Wallace Group or any Service District for that matter. So don’t go around spreading rumors and false hoods.. It must be nice to have nothing better to do than run peoples reputations thru the mud..

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 3

      • MaryMalone says:

        Ahhh, but at one time Mike Seitz’s wife DID work for The Wallace Group, and at the same time her husband provided services to the SSLOCSD.

        No insider conflict of interest there, eh?

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 3

      • doggin says:

        Oh really? Mike Seitz IS the Sanitation District’s attorney and has been for decades. And yes Mikes wife was the WG’s HR person and you can take that to the bank. Rumors, ha ,ha , funny stuff there. They seem to being a fine job of self destructing all by their lonesomes. It just took the right persons to expose the corruption and deceit within their organization.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 3

  5. MaryMalone says:

    QUOTING THE ARTICLE , “Administrative Failures Result in $1.1 Million Fine,” dated 10/4/2012::
    Prosecutors said several times during the hearing that a lawsuit filed on behalf of the rate payers could result in The Wallace Group being responsible for the fines as opposed to the rate payers.”

    Since they said it “several times,” perhaps they were trying to give the packed audience a hint?

    Maybe a few letters or emails might spur the State to use their power to bring a lawsuit against John Wallace.

    Here are some names for starters:

    =========

    CWRCB Prosecutor, Office of Enforcement
    Julie Macedo, Esq.
    1001 I Street, P.O. Box 100
    Sacramento, California 95812
    916-323-6847
    jmacedo@waterboards.ca.gov

    ====

    CWRCB
    Central Coast Region
    895 Aerovista Place, Suite 101
    San Luis Obispo, CA 93401

    Harvey Packard (805) 542-4639
    hpackard@waterboards.ca.gov

    http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/centralcoast

    ===========

    Central Coast Region
    http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/centralcoast

    895 Aerovista Place, Suite 101
    San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
    Harvey Packard (805) 542-4639
    hpackard@waterboards.ca.gov

    =========

    Matthew Buffleben (916) 341-5891
    mbuffleben@waterboards.ca.gov

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

  6. MaryMalone says:

    On Page 3 of the posts is a post with info which might be useful in filling out the engineer license complaint form for John Wallace. Here’s the URL: tinyurl.com/9bt7wfe

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 3

  7. MaryMalone says:

    Here some info for filling out the form, from the CA Engineer Lookup website, (http://www.bpelsg.ca.gov/consumers/lic_lookup.shtml), and other errata which may be useful when writing the cover letter.

    ————————————————————

    Licensee Name: WALLACE, JOHN LEE
    612 Clarion Court
    San Luis Obispo, CA 93401-7963
    Ph: 805 544-4011 Fax: 805 544-4294

    License Type: CIVIL ENGINEER
    License Number: 33965
    Expiration Date: December 31, 2012

    Actions: No
    License Status: CLEAR
    Status Definition: Status
    The license is current and valid. IMPORTANT NOTE: Even if the status is CLEAR, there could be complaints or disciplinary actions as part of the license history. You may contact the Board at 1-866-780-5370 (toll free) to check for complaints or disciplinary actions against this license.

    In addition to the information from the Engineer Lookup URL, Wallace has, and still owns, other businesses. These include Fluid Resource Management (FRM), Pacific Solutions Constructions, and Swanson International.

    ———————————————

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 3

    • doggin says:

      FRM or Fluid Resource Management may no longer be owned by Wallace, there’s also Ellison Environmental that Wallace probably funded at some point or held the majority shares in. Word is Ellison and Wallace parted ways some years ago however. Who knows the truth really? perhaps its time to do some research on what Wallace owns or is share holders in. Funny that Wallace was adamant about FRM not doing any work at the plant years ago,now FRM is providing various services at the plant as of lately. I suspect Wallace is doing the engineering or contract admin for what services FRM performs as part of a deal with FRM as the Wallace Group is suffering financially from all the bad PR/media coverage. :)
      Also don’t forget Woeste Electric. The owner a former FRM/ San Dist employee himself and buddy of Wallace himself now has his son bill the District under the name Wescorp for electrical repairs or work. Just more inbreeding of good pals.
      I

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

      • MaryMalone says:

        On The Wallace Group website there are four offices listed–in Texas.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 3

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