Oceano seawater intrusion deemed a scam

February 13, 2012

By KAREN VELIE

San Luis Obispo County government agencies have been using data known to be phony to secure state and federal grants.

Following a 2009 report of seawater intrusion contaminating the unincorporated community of Oceano’s groundwater supply, numerous local agencies used the information to apply for federal and state funding or to legitimize high-dollar water projects.

However, for more than a year, Oceano Community Services District board members have been saying reports of seawater intrusion are nothing but propaganda.

During last Wednesday’s board meeting,  directors penned a letter to the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors asserting that there is no truth to the allegation of seawater intrusion in Oceano.

“The level of exploitation of this anomaly has reached critical mass and is being quoted from everything from commercial development, other agency needs and willful suspensions of the truth,” the letter says.

In 2009, John Wallace, owner and president of the Wallace Group, a private engineering consulting firm, was paid to oversee the monitoring of the Sentry Well in Oceano. Wallace then reported that the testing well was contaminated by seawater intrusion.

“At the time that this Sentry Well was tested, there were significant external contaminates,” the district letter says. “The board at the time was directed by its contracted engineer (Wallace) to take a position that the event was actually a benefit because it would elevate the priority level in case of any state water contractor allocation cutbacks.

“The same engineer is on contract with several San Luis Obispo agencies, which (have exploited) this information to their benefit.”

Shortly after Wallace first made his claim of seawater intrusion, critics argued that because the well’s seal was broken, and it was located behind a liquor store in an area where vagrants were known to gather, the contamination was more likely the result of urination and debris.

In early 2010, the district had the seal repaired and further testing of the well demonstrated that there was no contamination and no seawater intrusion.

Nevertheless, the allegations became the basis for requests for government monies including Proposition 84 funds, Department of Water Resources Local Groundwater Assistance program, and United States Geological Survey Water Management Plan.

In early November, the San Luis Obispo County Planning Commission approved a project citing the issue of seawater intrusion in Oceano. Concurrently, in Nipomo the false allegation of seawater intrusion was used to promote a $26 million pipeline project.

On Nov. 9, the Oceano Community Service District board discussed the issue of seawater intrusion being used as propaganda throughout the county. Board members then instructed District Manager Tom Geaslan to assemble a brief history of the issue in order to put the false claim to rest.

Instead, Geaslan signed a letter on Nov. 30 along with representatives from Grover Beach, Arroyo Grande, Pismo Beach and the Nipomo Mesa that requested funding to implement groundwater management activities because of seawater intrusion into their collective basin.

Meanwhile, the Oceano Community Service District board was pressuring Geaslan to prepare a letter to the SLO County Board of Supervisors explaining the claim of seawater intrusion was untrue.

And while the issue of the letter was listed on the Jan. 25 agenda, Geaslan again failed to produce the letter and claimed the district’s computers had been hacked.

“Our server has been hacked, our website has been hacked, my personal computer has been hacked,” Geaslan said at the meeting.

However, sources inside the district contend the district’s computer system froze and just needed to be reset and that Geaslan deleted several files in an attempt to promote his notion that the computers had been hacked.

Two weeks later, at the board’s Feb. 8 meeting, Geaslan again failed to produce the requested letter.

Geaslan did, however, admit to the board that he had signed a separate letter in November which claimed Oceano’s ground water was endangered because of seawater intrusion. He explained the letter was used in an attempt to get a portion of an $8.5 million dollar surplus in funding from the Nacimiento water project. He noted the letter was supposed to have been kept out of the public’s view.

“I resisted signing, but I wanted to be a team player,” Geaslan said during the meeting. “I’m kinda falling on my sword here. In retrospect I probably should have stuck to my guns and not signed.

“I need to point out that this did manifest itself into somewhat of a good way and because we all did band together and used that to go after the $200,000 that we are trying to get from the WRAC (Water Resources Advisory Council).”

During a break in the meeting, board President Matt Guerrero took upon himself the task of writing the letter notifying county leaders that claims of seawater intrusion in Oceano are untrue. Guerrero then instructed Geaslan to deliver the letter to the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors.

Geaslan was the campaign manager for San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Paul Teixeira. His wife, Deb Geaslan, is the legislative assistant to Teixeira.

See the high resolution document from the Friday Reports at the Oceano CSD website.

Oceano letter 


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mbactivist1

There is a California law that requires developers to prove a long-term water supply before any significant development can take place. Our local governments have been infiltrated by and are controlled by developers and the big engineering companies that benefit from development. So, it is no surprise that this kind of corrupt activity keeps occurring here.


Please do what I did. File a complaint about this scam with the State Attorney General: http://ag.ca.gov/contact/complaint_form.php?cmplt=PL If enough of us complain, they just might do something.


RU4Real

Sort of reminds me of the “PHONY nitrate claims” in Los Osos…What a scam! That was how the Imfamous “waste water treatment project” was RAILROADED through…


notbuyingit

It seems that everyone is aching for a conspiracy but I’m not finding one. I’ve read this report in the past and the monitoring doesn’t just apply to one sentry well but several as well as over 38 production wells. “Groundwater elevation data is gathered from the network of wells listed in Appendix A.

Water level measurements in these wells have been used to monitor effects of groundwater

use, groundwater recharge, and as an indicator of risk of seawater intrusion. Analysis of these

groundwater elevation data has included development of groundwater surface contour maps,

hydrographs, and an index of key sentry well levels over time” If you follow the increased groundwater pumping on neighboring cities in particular Pismo Beach (it seems it was less expensive than state water) and combine that with low rainfall in the 2007 – 2009, the Sentry well’s water when tested showed variations in water quality. THIS IS WHAT SENTRY WELLS ARE SUPPOSED TO DO, CATCH IT BEFORE IT ACTUALLY HAPPENS. This data in conjunction measuring groundwater elevations on production wells was used to come to this conclusion. “Most of the hydrographs in Figure 10 show that groundwater elevations have recovered to

levels similar to 2006 (a wet year); this cycle shows the result of drought and increased

pumping followed by recovery caused by increased rainfall and decreased pumping”. To state that people were peeing outside by the sentry well causing the water quality decline is silly I suspect Pismo Beach is behind this little reaction by OCSD as they are proposing a 312 home project and are short water for this project and their build out. As for Nipomo CSD, if you remember back when the Woodlands was proposed to the county there were 2 assessments of the aquifer. The one provided by the Woodlands stated that there was enough water in the aquifer for this massive development of 2000 + homes but the other report stated that the aquifer would be depleted faster than replenished. At the time, I asked a well guy that I knew who has been drilling wells here for over 50 years. He stated that he’s not sure what the reports said but he knows that aquifer and it cannot replenish itself with a development of this magnitude. I believe his unbiased opinion. Its a little irrational to think that Nipomo CSD would go to such lengths with nothing to gain but ensure water for the Nipomo. Why would they lie? To bring jobs to the county? Please……I’m not buying it! Let the water wars begin!


MaryMalone

Reality check. The “saltwater intrusion” finding by Todd Engineering was false. This is evidenced by:


Mb>1. Obvious unsuitability of the one sentry well that showed “saltwater intrusion” for inclusion in the sentry wells used to assess for that possibility. The one sentry well that showed evidence was not secured, it was accessible by anyone walking by, and, looking at the “before” photos, there was a collection of filthy contaminated water on top of the well access port. Also, the three elements which are repeatedly reported as being the indicators for saltawter intrusion (chloride, sodium, potassium) are also elements found in urine.


Considering the clear evidence of homeless concentration in that area (note the path going within feet of the filthy well), the unsecured access port for well, and the corroded nature of the access port, clearly the sentry well that is the focus of the 2009 “saltwater intrusion” indicator could have been contaminated by the local homeless population.


2. As one of the steps taken to address the 2009 Boyd Engineering “saltwater intrusion” finding was to replace Boyd Engineering with another engineering firm, GEI Consultants. On reviewing staff notes from local board meetings, it seems that the “North Cities” were not happy with Todd Engineering’s work because they were replaced by a contract with GEI Consultants shortly after the 2009 findings were published. The irony, of course, is that it is not GEI’s findings they use as reasons to get state and federal grants and loans; it’s the Todd Engineering findings.


According to a Grover Beach staff report attachment, page 5, from the 10/17/2011 council meeting:


“Groundwater Monitoring

As noted previously, in accordance with the Settlement Agreement, the Northern Cities have

engaged the firm of GEl Consultants to complete an extensive monitoring of the water basin

and to prepare an annual report that is provided to the Court and interested parties
. The

monitoring being done by GEl Consultants includes groundwater surface elevation monitoring to

see how the groundwater system is responding to the continuing drought and the extraction of

water by urban and agricultural entities.

Efforts undertaken since the 2009 monitoring report include hiring a new water engineering firm

to prepare the annual reports and perform well monitoring, upgrading the monitoring wells to

preclude contamination from the surface
, surveying the wells to assure that water levels are

taken on a consistent datum and installation of sensors in three wells to provide more insight

into fluctuations in water quality and well levels.

http://www.grover.org/DocumentView.aspx?DID=2092


MaryMalone

“(it seems it was less expensive than state water) ”


They pay for state water whether they choose to use it or not. Heck, they pay for it even when the state can’t or won’t deliver it.


MaryMalone

from the first page of the document packet accompanying this CCN article…


The incident in 2009 exhibited characteristics of saltwater intrusion….The Board at that time was instructed by its contracted engineer to take a position that the event was actually a benefit because it would elevate the priority level in case of any state water contractor allocation cutbacks. This same engineer is on contract with several San Luis Obispo agencies to which this information has been exploited to their benefit.


An engineering staff note attached to an OCSD board packet from 9/28/2009 indicates John Wallace was the contracted engineer. This staff note from 2009 (http://tinyurl.com/7s6eulz) discusses the findings by Todd Engineering, and recommended options for the OCSD board to consider.


Interesting that the OCSD board, by signing their letter of 2/8/2012, appears to be giving the world notice that John Wallace has been basically using scare tactics, claiming there is saltwater intrusion when the OCSD board believes there is not. The board believes John Wallace is “exploiting” the situation by using misinformation for his own benefit.. It also mentions Wallace’s many contracts with other agencies in the area.


Does John Wallace attend these meetings where his staff reports are entered into the board packet, and discussed by the board members? If so, that must have been a little uncomfortable for him.


MaryMalone

Replying to my own danged post to post a correction.


It is not clear whether by indicating “contracted engineer” they meant John Wallace or Boyd Engineering.


Since Boyd Engineering was pretty quickly booted after delivering their 2009 “saltwater intrusion” findings and John Wallace is still district engineer for OCSD, I would guess they were referring to Boyd Engineering.


K100

Typoqueen


What you describe would be the usual with a well maintained monitoring well.


There are other sources of high chloride that can move into wells other then the classic seawater plume.


As far as I know there was not any investigation to eliminate other sources.


Back in the 1960’s there was a well just east from the well in question that had high chloride and people said there was seawater intrusion. That kicked off the DWR 63-3 investigation that resulted in drilling the 8 seawater monitoring wells (note three of the eight have been “Lost” under the sand and no one has taken any effort to dig them up yet)


The result of that study was that the salt was moving down from the top of the well from the lagoon and that there was no Seawater intrusion.


There are a number of other possibilities that have not been excluded.


See http://www.nonewwiptax.com/Pages/Oceano_Seawater.html


Unfortunately the group involved with the monitoring, Northern Cities Management Area Technical Group is not a public entity and there is no public records, public meetings to allow the public to determine what is going on with this well, what is reported and why.


MaryMalone

Here’s a pretty well-known photo of ground level subsidence in the Central Valley, California. This occurs from pumping to irrigate crops.


http://polizeros.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/land-subsisdence.jpg


MaryMalone

Looking at the photos accompanying the letter from OCSD, it seems clear that the first set of photos show the well to appear to not even be secured. If it was not secured by a locking device, then how can they possibly say the readings were accurate?


I’m not even going to discuss the foul, putrid fluid sitting on top of the well access point.


kayaknut

Anything Wallace is invovled in is likely dishonest, but our elected officals still refuse to do anything. Again, time to get rid of them all.


MaryMalone

It’s not just SLO County. Nipomo CSD has filed for loans and grants for the Santa Maria pipeline project.


They have consistently told the public that the pipeline was needed and, especially in the last few years, the “fact” that there was saltwater instrusion demonstrated in a sentry well, was one of the big scare tactics the NCSD board and its general manager used.


In June 2011, the SM Times ran an article entitled “PIPELINE WILL FORESTALL SALTWATER INTRUSION, NCSD EXPERTS SAY” (http://tinyurl.com/77qpmt8)


Mike Hodgson, the reporter for the SMTimes, has (in my experience) pretty much wrote what Nipomo CSD told him. So the timbre of the opening of the above-referenced article is interesting:


Slick color brochures began arriving in Nipomo residents’ mailboxes last week in the first salvo of a growing battle over a pipeline to bring supplemental water to the Mesa.

Produced by a consultant for the Nipomo Community Services District, the brochures don’t even mention the proposed pipeline or the assessment district to pay for the $25 million project.

Instead, they plant seeds for thought about the Mesa’s limited water supply, potential saltwater intrusion and the need for additional water.


And those brochures were slick. I happen to know they paid a lot of money to the outside consulting group they brought in to help them shove this pipeline project down the throats of the Nipomo people.


Later in the article Nipomo CSD’s general manager (Michael LeBrun) gives some lovely quotes. Notice that, again, Hodgson gets a little terse about the information the general manager is feeding him: ”

But even more important, they say, is the need to prevent saltwater from flowing into the basin from the Pacific Ocean, which could happen if the groundwater level drops too low.

“We’ve got 30,000 people here and one source of water,” LeBrun said, noting that increasing demand has brought the groundwater level down.

“But the Pacific Ocean is not going down,” he continued. “As we pump the groundwater down, (seawater) will continue to advance. It is advancing today, although it’s not in the basin yet.”

The fact that no saltwater intrusion has been detected in sentry wells near the coastline is one reason critics say there’s no need for a supplemental water project.

Our opponents say we’re scaring people, we’ve got a boogie man,” LeBrun said. “But back in 2009, there was an indication of seawater intrusion up in the Northern Cities, and that’s pretty scary.”

Possible saltwater intrusion was detected in a sentry well that monitors the Northern Cities Management Area of the basin that serves Grover Beach, Arroyo Grande and Oceano Community Services District.


(When LeBrun says “Northern Cities,” he’s talking about the northern of the five-cities/Nipomo Mesa area [Oceano, GB, Pismo], not Paso and Atascadero).


When the Nipomo CSD board was anti-raising water rates and anti-water conservation, anybody who tried to talk to them were ridiculed. At one board meeting, the staff person who brought it up was accused of using “scare tactics” by the president of the board of directors, Jim Harrison.


So who is using the scare tactics now? And why are they?


Someone is profiting from this, and it is not the people of Nipomo.


Lynette_Tornatzky

The Prop 84 grant money is only obtained by REGIONS applying for it. Oceano is just one of a group hoping to find funding for the many different water projects in the county. I sure hope that this “revelation” is not going to jeopardize everyone else’s projects.


MaryMalone

Since the County is alleged to be involved in the fraud–I would say that, if the SS Saltwater-Intrusion Boondoggle goes down, the County is going down with it.


If the County is investigated for one instance of fraud on state and federal grant or loan documentation, they will probably be investigated on other similar documents on other projects they have submitted.


Lynette_Tornatzky

So the Velie quote,


“Nevertheless, the allegations became the basis for requests for government monies including Proposition 84 funds, Department of Water Resources Local Groundwater Assistance program, and United States Geological Survey Water Management Plan”


is not about Oceano applying for the grant , but Nipomo applying for the grant? Boy, that sure wasn’t very clear in this article!


In any case, Nipomo’s request for the pipeline isn’t just based on Oceano’s SWI but on the very well documented SWI in Los Osos.


Read about it here:


https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:HObkl3gy-SEJ:ncsd.ca.gov/Library/EdH2Oshortage%2520FAQ%2BFN2.doc+nipomo+oceano+sea+water+intrusion&hl=en&gl=us&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESh1yT7fdqQvQU3L71f-uiJqhx_A–khL6CNP5K0IVf_CRNT9BwQIvU_lhrQzee-j1yTuUZwC5-hjUSaIrhaNN2wsItlcWXeGP8gfXwz5l2Gi63xq2JTS2vyRBC1st0GhtVC-poe&sig=AHIEtbTEOWKHr2w37IqcfKDrdTSNqFIOIQ


MaryMalone

The county was in on some of the requests from funds based on the saltwater intrusion report.


The NCSD’s request for the pipeline is as I described in the post, above. An alternative source of water has to be brought in to the Nipomo Mesa, per the adjudication of a huge lawsuit. The pipeline is the method decided on, although others, such as desal, were considered.


I don’t think it has anything to do with Los Osos’s saltwater-intrusion issues, other than to use what has been found in Los Osos as a scare tactic to frighten the residents of Nipomo into submission.


In the document you cite, Los Osos is used as an example of how saltwater has happened “locally.”