Sanitation plant’s continuing violations costly to community
December 19, 2012
The South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District was slapped with another notice of violation on Tuesday for continuing environmental failures at the plant which are likely to result in more fines.
Investigators from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board found numerous violations during an inspection earlier this year. Many of the violations discovered by regulators were first pointed out by several whistle blowers through CalCoastNews more than two years ago
John Wallace is the chief administrator of the district that provides services to about 38,000 customers in Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach and Oceano. He is also owner and president of the Wallace Group, a private engineering consulting firm located in San Luis Obispo that receives from $50,000 to $80,000 a month for plant administration and engineering services.
Former employees contend that John Wallace, the administrator of the sanitation district, has been funneling thousands of dollars to his private engineering company while failing to properly maintain the aging plant.
In the Dec. 18 notice of violation, regulators said that four releases of improperly treated sewage into the ocean during the past few months were under reported because of the plant’s broken SCADA system, an alarm system that reports failures at the treatment plant.
In 2008, Wallace received a $4,500 bid for a new SCADA system after the plant’s old system had malfunctioned. Instead of accepting the bid, Wallace elected to purchase a system that his Wallace Group employees could install and reconfigure.
Currently, that alarm system has been down, aside for several short stints, for more than three years while Wallace Group employees attempt to make the system work at a cost of more than $52,000 as of October, 2009.
Wallace told CalCoastNews that the alarm system he selected to purchase does not compare to the one that cost $4,500. He said the system he is working to implement is superior.
Several years ago, a complaint was filed with the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA). It said that the Oceano based sanitation plant was violating safety procedures by employing untrained temporary employees.
In Tuesday’s NOV, regulators again point out that the plant’s administration has hired untrained personnel to work with chemicals, which violates the plant’s operating permit.
The district has until Feb. 1 to address the plants violations and deficiencies before the state levies fines or takes further regulatory action.