Sanitation district’s objections shot down
October 2, 2012
By KAREN VELIE
All but one of six complaints filed by the South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District objecting to actions taken and rulings by the Regional Water Quality Control Board during a Sept. 7 hearing were overruled Thursday.
Following a 2010 raw sewage spill in Oceano, the water board’s enforcement team proposed a $1.4 million fine against the district. State investigators contend plant administrator John Wallace and his private engineering firm The Wallace Group’s failure to properly repair and maintain equipment at the plant led to the spill.
Sanitation district officials claim that extremely wet weather in conjunction with a tripped electrical breaker in a supposedly waterproof housing caused the plant’s intake pumps to fail and sewage to escape. District officials elected to fight the allegations through a hearing in front of the water board instead of paying the fine.
At the end of the almost 16 hour hearing, the water board decided to delay making its decision on whether the sewage spill was the result of mismanagement or the weather.
On Sept. 12, sanitation district officials filed the formal objection claiming that the board’s procedures and rulings handicapped their defense. For example, the district argued that it was fundamentally unfair that its witnesses were required to testify in the evening when the air conditioner had been turned off and people were tired.
The district won one battle: district board member Bill Nicholls will be permitted to speak for three minutes prior to water board deliberations. Water board members plan to meet on Wednesday to deliberate and make a ruling.