Sanitation district discharging fecal matter into the ocean

October 5, 2012

John Wallace


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.


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Somebody is LYING. Plant Superintendent Bob Barlogio hasn’t reported ANY violations in any of his Superintendent’s Report to the Sanitation District Board of Directors.

The article states “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”.

None of this has been reported by Plant Superintendent Bob Barlogio. All of the past reports he gave to the Board of Directors can be found in the agenda packets that are located on the District’s website:

At this point you cannot trust anytthing ANYBODY connected with the Sanitation District says.

Every rate-payer in that area should individually sue Wallace for their rate increase.

In almost all cases in this County, WALLACE is the consultant, being paid larage dollars to give the districts they want to hear instead of the information they need to hear. WALLACE is the tread that runs through all these projects. The boards tell him what they want the outcomes to be (Morro Bay perfect example) and the consultants write the reports around that.

As for South County, I use to feel bad but after all this exposure and absolutely no changes to make things better and continuing down the path of same old engineer, same old council people. cronyism, mismanagement, not solutions and innocent good people having their careers tarnished in all this mayham, I no longer feel sorry for the people in this district. Changes need to be made and no one wants to do it so you get what you deserve = poop!

Sorry, but I have to disagree. Walalce DOES NOT tell the Districts what they want to hear. He tells them what HE WANTS THEM TO HEAR.

This is usually something about the need to perform another “research and engineering project” that his compaly will profit from.

Wallace and his company charge the South County Ratepayers an annual fee of approximately $1,000,000. These funds are generated by projects that John Wallace personally proposes, and then has his private company, The Wallace Group, perform.

As you can see from the current state of the plant, his projects haven’t been very successful.

TheLoneGunman, I have to somewhat disagree with you on “Walalce DOES NOT tell the Districts what they want to hear.” I have actually been involved in one siutation (as an employee) where Wallace was brought in, the agency told him what they really would like to have, how could he spin it and make it work and they end result was what the agency wanted.. Actually, we see this quite frequently with studies and decisions by the air quality board, integrated waste management authority, water resources board, planning commisions, etc.

Hopefully this will force the residents and ratepayers of South County to become involved. Unfortunately, the general public must also take a certain amount of responsibility for the situation as it currently exists.

Multiple sources of information have been made to the public that have revealed the corruption and malfeasance of John Wallace, Tony Ferraro, and Bill Nicolls. On occassions too numerous to count Wallace, Nicolls, and Mike Seitz have stated that the cost of the fine will be forwarded the ratepayers.

Public participation and attendance at City Council meetings have been very small, if any. The public has recieved multiple warnings that allowing Wallace, Ferraro, and Nicolls to oversee this matter would not result in the Publics Best Interest being served.

The ratepayers of Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach, and Oceano must now pay a $1.1 MILLION DOLLAR fine.

How much longer will the South County residents allow this fiasco to go on? If being held liable for a $1.1 MILLION DOLLAR fine will not motivate the residents to force change, then perhaps nothing will.

Well, we know what the sanitation district board is going to do about this. NOTHING.

They pretend each incident in this unending sewage flow of problems is an isolated incident that has nothing to do with anything else. They will just wait until the publicity fades away, pat Wallace on the back, thank him for his good work, and WRITE HIM ANOTHER CHECK.

The Water Quality Control Board needs to come down hard again. Maybe that will finally force the Arroyo Grande and Grover Beach city councils to appoint board representatives that will look out for the public interest.

Just a layman’s observation : WWTPs seem to be a big business in SLO County with a select few reaping huge benefits through cheating the ratepayers and the environment.

It’s no wonder that Los Osos became a fiasco of epic proportions or that Morro Bay has been headed toward a similar situation.

Why is it that incompetence and/or bad actors have so much power and why don’t the people of the County demand professionals with integrity to represent them?

Good questions. One thing that might help would be to make it easier to recall them. If they won’t do their jobs, then they must be removed. Clearly, a lot of people in government are not doing their jobs. In many cases, they, in essence, are refusing to move.

Then you must get rid of them.

Nicolls, Ferraro and Wallace have not been doing “their jobs” for many years now. The time for recall may have already passed. South County residents must now pay $1.1 MILLION DOLLARS due to the mismanagment of John Wallace.

At this point the public has two options:

1. Set back and do nothing. John Wallace, Bill Nicolls and Tony Ferraro have decided that they will appeal the case. If you trust them, and are comfortable with the way the situation has been handled so far, then do nothing. If the appeal is lost, you will then be responsible for paying not only the $1.1 MILLION DOLLAR fine, but will also have to pay for the additional cost of legal fees (which are already approaching $500,000).

2. Appear en masse, at the Grover Beach and Arroyo Grande council meetings and DEMAND that Bill Nicolls, Tony Ferraro, and John Wallace be removed from their positions. DEMAND that the ratepayers file suit against John Wallace as a private entity and demand that he be responsible for the $1.1 MILLION DOLLAR fine.

These are “real world” dollars that will be coming out of all our pockets.

Brook, the people have demanded. However, the three-member board of directors, which is supposed to give oversight for the SSLOCSD, ignores our complaints and demands. They are far more interested in bending over for John Wallace and his corporation than doing their job and guarding the public’s health and safety.

Even the local water board, which took decades to come down on Wallace and SSLOCSD, couldn’t bring itself to levy the penalty that should have been levied (per the experienced ciphering of Mr. Horner, the chief analyst and auditor for the water board.

The local water board also did not go forward with filing criminal charges against Wallace and the three-member board of directors.

Complaining to Nicolls and Ferraro about Wallace is absolutely a lost cause. They have made it perfectly clear that they will give John Wallace unwavering support, no matter what the facts and evidence reveal.

The only way to deal with the root of the problem is to remove the people who have supervised Wallace, namely Ferraro and Nicolls. We should probably throw in Grover Beach Mayor John Shoals as well.

In a recent Grover Beach City Council meeting Phlyiss Molnar made a valiant attempt to address the problem and appoint a new representative to the Sanitation District Board.

Mayor Shoals voiced his complete support of John Wallace and Bill Nicolls, stating that he thought Wallace and Nicolls had done a “fine job” and he WOULD NOT even consider appointing a new rep to the San Dist Board.

Fortunatley his term expires soon.

The State and Local board cannot/do not file criminal charges in these matters. The suspected activity or evidence must be forwarded by them to the state Attorney General which I believe is in the process of taking place. If you know other wise about the AG not pursuing charges please speak up and let us know. Perhaps its time for some more phone calls by the public.

Perhaps then the best thing that could happen would be to have the AG take a good look at the entire spiderweb of questionable water operations in the County.

And as is often said:”Follow the money”. See which appointed or elected officials keep burying the truth and to what actual end. Might even want to see some tax returns in the process?

This is exactly what should happen…..turn this whole mess over to the State Attorney General. The local politicians are either:

A)Incapable of addressing the situation

B)Unwilling to address the situation

C)In collusion with Wallace

File a complaint with the State Attorney General’s office:

The Wallace Group, instead of “getting their sh!t together” simply “flushes it out to sea”? Funny, I thought their job was to process the waste, not simply push through and on to the ocean. What is the purpose of having a treatment plant if the plant isn’t doing the job of treating the wastewater?

Its all about burning up the Districts once over $12 Million in reserves for lower cost, board approved projects Wallace is capable of performing that can be slid thru with little public knowledge. Then as you see now that the money is used up a loan is in the works from the states revolving fund to do what Wallace should have done with the reserves a decade ago and that’s upgrade the plants biological process so these illegal discharges no longer happen.

Hate to tell you folks but the exact same scenario is taking place at Avila CSD where Wallace has the public by the nuts also.

Wallace seems to have had his hand in all over the county – as their go to guy.

With all the blunders associated with him, makes one wonder why. Follow the money.

The law is the LAW. How can the Regional Water Quality Control Board impose fines when they are allowing hundred of thousands of pounds of poison (carcinogens) to be discharged into our drinking water and oceans EVERY SINGLE DAY…AND THAT MEANS TODAY?

Over 1,500 people DIE EVERY DAY in this country from cancer and the RWQCB REFUSES to enforce the Clean Water Act thus poisoning you and your family. The Clean Water Act is a “Strict Liability Statue”, that means there is NO EXCUSE for not knowing the law. It means if you violate THE LAW as is the RWQCB you are GUILTY….period.

US CODE Title 33 Chapter 26 section 1311(a) makes it is unlawful to discharge pollutants off your property before “pretreatment” (1317(b)) to remove toxic disease carrying and cancer causing pollutants.

This never would have happened if the RWQCB (Regional Water Quality Control Board) enforced the PUBLIC HEALTH CODE and PUBLIC LAW 92-500 aka THE CLEAN WATER ACT of 1972. It is a “Congressional Mandate of the HIGHEST PRIORITY” to implement the “best available demonstrated control technology” to remove all pollutants from our discharge AT OUR PROPERTY BEFORE IT GOES INTO A SEWER, as to “PREVENT SAID POLLUTANTS FROM MIGRATING into our drinking water, rivers and oceans just as it did here and has done so many times before.

Yes, that means technology that removes 100%…that’s right 100% of ALL POLLUTANTS from every building, structure, home, business, facility, etc that has a toilet, shower or any device that discharges pollutants. Yes, the technology was certified by the National Sanitation Foundation (the largest independent laboratory in the world) in March of 1994 and yes it fits every building and is a FRACTION OF THE COST OF A SEWER which WASTES WATER! Why do you think it is called the WASTE WATER INDUSTRY???

It is the RWQCB’s SPECIFIC RESPONSIBILITY to promulgate this technology which has existed for decades to assist in the implementation to remove 100% of ALL POLLUTANTS and then recycle that water to be used over and over to stop our water shortage problems.

So think about it…the RWQCB is suing Wallace when THEY are GUILTY for causing the problem in the first place! If the RWQCB enforced THE CLEAN WATER ACT there would NEVER be another sewer spill. Pollutants would be removed at everyone’s property and we would all be recycling our water ending our shortage of water…plenty to go around.

The RWQCB and The Wallace Group are GUILTY of not enforcing The Clean Water Act which by the way, carry Federal fines of $25,000 per day and up to 3 years in prison per day of violation. Sad when your own “government agency” is the real criminal!

To appear as if they are doing their job they sue the Wallace Group…the pot calling the kettle black.

” Why do you think it is called the WASTE WATER INDUSTRY???”

Ah, never mind.

First, there is no evidence treated water is the cause of all cancer.

Second, what technology are you referring to that removes 100% of everything? I’m curious.

The point should be, if correct, The Wallace Group should be excluded from business with the district. Also, an immediate investigation should be conducted to see if any fraud or illegal business practices have occurred. Sounds like a coverup is likely if John Wallace is indeed administering a contract with his own company.

There is no law suit against Wallace from the RWQCB. They fined the South County Sanitation District. Wallace is off the hook…so far.

Wallace is currently off the hook, but several residents that had their houses flooded with raw sewage have already started the process of filing lawsuits against John Wallace personally.

The potential for millions of dollars of lawsuits against John Wallace, and his company the Wallace Group, is the reason that John Wallace has tried so desperately to fight the $1.1 MILLION DOLLAR FINE. If 40+ residents each file a lawsuit and win, it would potentially put Wallace out of business.

South County residents will be forced to pony up the money for the fine, but there may be legal recourse if Wallace, Nicolls and Ferraro are found guilty of criminal negligence, but that is not Water Qulaity’s area of enforcement.

RWQCB oversees permitted dischargers. In this case it was the Sanitation District who held the permit, not John Wallace. Therefore, WQ area of authority does not allow for a “lawsuit” against John Wallace.

However, WQ can recommend cases for criminal prosecution to the State Attorney General. Perhaps each ratepayer of the Sanitation District should file a complaint with State Attorney Generals Office. It appears to be the only way to resolve this issue, the local elected politicians have had ample opportunity to fix this problem, but they have not.

For those interested in filing a formal complaint wih the State Attorney General, here is the link:

It takes all of ten minutes. When the alternative is considered (an additional $30 per month on your sewer bill), it seems like a wise investment in time.

Like I told you before, its called the Honor system of self monitoring. Bitch all you want but there are hundreds of registered waste dischargers in Ca alone who lie like Wallace historically has. Its the equivalent of one out of every 5 citizens being a crook in our state. Its just not possible to have that many law enforcement officials to police that many people. That’s were things like ethics,morals,integrity and honesty come into play and unfortunately to many people are greedy scumbag liars like Wallace and his band of thieves.

Time to replace the “honor system” with the Legal System. If enough citizens file a complaint with the AG, it will trigger an investigation that local “authorities” cannot tamper with. But it’s up to the citizens to demand that the issue gets that attention.

This will never be fixed until the people make enough noise that they cannot be ignored..

“the effluent contained fecal chunks”

Surf’s up kids. Remind you’re parents that they are paying 80K a month for you to play in that stuff.

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