Los Osos Waste

June 7, 2013
Tom Salmon

Tom Salmon


The Los Osos sewer construction nears 25 percent completion, the only work that has really taken place is in the high and dry areas of the community. As complexities will begin to mount and construction becomes increasingly more difficult, the contractors will encounter areas of high groundwater in pockets throughout the community and along the bay fringe.

The unseen problems can only lead to higher costs, delays and distrust.

Pilot wells have been drilled along the edges of 3rd Street and Doris Avenue where groundwater levels are nearly at the surface. These wells are intended to be pumped 24 hours a day, 7 days a week; in succession dewatering the blocks-long stretches so that pipes can be laid in some cases, up to 18 feet below the surface. With the water of unknown quality and quantity to be pumped to locations yet to be determined — a permit has been issued dump it into Morro Bay. The engineering data from the county estimates millions of gallons each day will be discharged this way.

What is important to remember is to sewer Los Osos is an unfunded “mandate” handed down by the Regional Water Quality Control Board due to rising levels of nitrate in the basin’s upper aquifer. As Los Osos development increased during the 1970’s and early 1980’s over 4,500 septic systems were put into use. The RWQCB concluded, in a less than scientific manner, that the more septic systems in use equated to increased pollution of the groundwater. With no new development over the last 25 years in Los Osos, using that same unscientific formula, why have recent nitrate tests show levels to again be on the rise? They are up slightly over test results done six years ago.

What is in the water? Those dewatering wells will be pumping millions of gallons of what should be polluted with septic returns. Yet, the mystery continues, no information is available to the public. When lab results from ditch water and soil were requested from the County Public Works Dept., their response was, “To date, no discharges to receiving surface waters has occurred and the testing requirements have not been triggered. As a result, no water quality related laboratory test results exist which can be released.”

Yet, in a conversation with RWQCB Board members and staff, by Project Manager, John Waddell, the soil is “inert.”

Additionally, the county has requested a waiver to dump this water on land, as they are hearing from the public and others that dumping to the bay is not an acceptable solution. In their January 2013 waiver request they site that tests have been done saying, “Sampling and analysis of shallow groundwater at representative sites throughout the work area was completed for the county by Fugro Consultants on February 2, 2012. Samples were analyzed for a range of priority pollutants as well as salinity. All compounds tested were found to be below the state drinking water standards found in Title 22 of the CA Code of Regulations and the majority of the compounds were below detection limits.”

These tests were done prior to the “secret groundbreaking” on May 29, 2012, that Supervisor Gibson, his legislative assistant and the public works staff held, so as not to risk protests from the public. Avoiding the scene made at the original groundbreaking with the previous project headed by the recalled LOCSD Board in their highly publicized gold-shovel groundbreaking of the ill-fated Tri-W project, never to be installed.

If the soil and water are indeed “inert,” then one has to wonder how that is possible. This is the soil that is saturated with septic returns, otherwise known as human waste. At least that’s what has been asserted for decades.

I am not suggesting a sewer system is unnecessary in Los Osos, I am suggesting the pretense in which one is being built was flawed from the beginning. Groundwater management has always been at the root for the need of a sewer system. Capturing the wastewater from each home, treating it and reusing it has always made sense. Sadly, the current proposal doesn’t meet that need either. The County has failed to find a farmer who will stop using the potable drinking supply and opt for the unknown quality of the treated wastewater.

Additionally, the county has been notified of “heavy metals” in the water, yet the system that is being installed will not eliminate the pollution. Over $200 million will not accomplish what has been promised.

The county has failed to manage the construction of the project; cost overruns are just coming to light with millions of dollars unfolding only six months into the big dig.

Tom Salmon, is a longtime Los Osos resident with 35 years of expertise in statewide public infrastructure.




  1. Niles Q says:

    The first Supervisor that tried to deal with this was Bill Coy. He brought the issue to the voters who rejected the project back in the mid-1980s. The county then handed out building permits like Halloween candy, ignoring the water board’s CDO until they slammed the door shut with a moratorium in October 1988.
    Then Bud Laurent wasted about 8 years fighting over whether or not they actually needed a sewer, which was a losing battle but it endeared him to the anti-sewer folks and got him elected and re-elected.
    But the mighty RWQCB had spoken and no matter what anyone said, there was no turning off the highway to Hell heading right over a cliff.
    Shirley Bianchi spent her time in office pretty much ignoring Los Osos, and along with those at County Engineering, rejoicing when the CSD got formed and took over the project.
    Then the CSD imploded, all hell broke loose and it took an act of the State Legislature (sponsored by Sam Blakeslee) to get the kindergartners to settle down and bring order to the galaxy (apologies to Darth Vader).
    So when pointing the finger of blame bring about a dozen fingers beccause there are a slew of people responsible for this fiasco including Tom Salmon, which would be funny if it weren’t so serious a threat to the residents, their homes and fortunes.
    So while Mr. Salmon might be correct in his complaints about the costs already soaring, he needs to take some responsibility for killing the CSD’s project, which while flawed, would have been completed by now at a cost of about $116 million instead of $173 million and climbing.

    (7) 7 Total Votes - 7 up - 0 down
    • Lynette_Tornatzky says:

      Thanks Niles Q for reporting what happened. I think a lot of people really don’t know how this went down.

      (4) 6 Total Votes - 5 up - 1 down
  2. Vallybear says:

    Was Bruce Gibson a Supervisor when this whole mess started about 25 years ago? I don’t think so.

    Also, I didn’t hear much noise when this paper announced that our County ‘friend’ had given the contractors a huge raise = further adding to the cost.

    I would like to be reimbursed for 1. the damage done to my one year old car. It is riding like a truck after going over steel plates, dirt, etc. 2. the extra gas I had to use to go around these impossible DETOURS, and 3. The water I have used to get the dust off the car so it does not further seep into the interior. 4. the frustration that I experienced going on a road thinking it was o.k. and then to be met with ANOTHER DETOUR sign after I had already detoured once!

    We are stuck with a gigantic mess so that Pandora and friends could profit from the surge in population (if the moratorium is ever lifted). Maybe they will be old and gray and have moved on when this gets done (if ever).

    Ya think?

    (0) 14 Total Votes - 7 up - 7 down
  3. jimmy_me says:

    As one early post mentioned, lawsuits are coming. There are so many things wrong with this project that it’s only a matter of time before the people who are stuck paying for it get organized. I predict everyone in SLO county will end up paying for all the mistakes on this project. Although all the emotional comments mentioned are great, the facts will prevail in court.

    (-1) 13 Total Votes - 6 up - 7 down
    • Lynette_Tornatzky says:

      And what specifically do YOU think warrants a lawsuit and more to the point, who do you think is going to pay for it? How many thousands would you be willing to chip in?

      What legal mechanism would be used to bill anyone in the County to pay sewer costs—please step right up and explain the legal process!

      No one is organizing anything, so don’t get your hopes up.

      (1) 13 Total Votes - 7 up - 6 down
  4. Ron says:

    Lynette writes:

    “Sounds like you have fallen into the absurd Ron hallucination of believing that Pandora is ‘Queen of the World!'”

    Well, actually, I never said that, but, if I had, trust me, Pandora wouldn’t find it “absurd,” she would LOVE it.

    I mean, after all, she DID name her sailboat, “Califia,” and according to good ‘ol Wiki, Califia was “a fictional warrior queen… living on the mythical Island of California.”

    So, obviously, she’s VERY fond of the “Queen” monicker.

    [Oh, by the way, that reminds me: Quick shout out to the Morro Bay Coast Guard station: If you happen to see the Califia sailing towards a non-extradition-treaty country, like those found in the South Pacific, please STOP IT, and tow it back to Morro Bay. Muchos gracias.]

    (-6) 14 Total Votes - 4 up - 10 down
  5. Lynette_Tornatzky says:

    Gee, I’d like to reply to CherieMcKee under her last post but I ran out of “Reply” buttons.


    1. stooper – a person at a racetrack who searches for winning parimutuel tickets that have been carelessly discarded by others

    2. stooper – a person who carries himself or herself with the head and shoulders habitually bent forward

    No one bowed to Pandora. The CSD’s first iteration of a sewer was the work of many community members. Sounds like you have fallen into the absurd Ron hallucination of believing that Pandora is “Queen of the World!”

    We assessed ourselves $24,941.19 for the sewer, not $29,000.

    What is “Sweeties?”

    (3) 11 Total Votes - 7 up - 4 down
    • CherieMcKee says:

      Sweet Springs Saloon

      (-4) 6 Total Votes - 1 up - 5 down
      • Lynette_Tornatzky says:

        OH! Well, thanks, you must be on the inside to know this clever little term of endearment. I have never been inside. Is is a nice bar?

        (2) 6 Total Votes - 4 up - 2 down
    • CherieMcKee says:

      For the record, to hook up to the sewer will cost far more than the $24,941.19 assessed , as found in rates and charges, decommissioning, hook ups, landscapes/driveways/retaining walls, etc.

      Oh, and I see you were out late again.

      (0) 10 Total Votes - 5 up - 5 down
      • jimmy_me says:

        No, no, no! You’re wrong CherieMckee. Bruce Gibson promised me in person this project could cost me no more than $165/month!

        (-1) 7 Total Votes - 3 up - 4 down
        • CherieMcKee says:

          Bruce is a gazillionaire he spends $165 on dinner without blinking an eye. He is out of touch with the voters.

          (-3) 7 Total Votes - 2 up - 5 down
          • jimmy_me says:

            You missed the sarcasm in my post. If BG feels this project will come in at less than $165/month, then he’s out of touch with reality in addition to being out of touch with the voters.

            I spoke to BG when he was wandering around the Los Osos war zone. He presented me with countless justifications and backless arguments for the sewer project. I’m absolutely sure these feelgood arguments work on most people and support his dreams of re-election, but they indicated to me what a crappy leader he is. Good leaders take full responsibility for their decisions; BG’s arguments indicated he is not a good leader.

            (-3) 13 Total Votes - 5 up - 8 down
            • Lynette_Tornatzky says:

              Backless arguments for the sewer project? Justifications? Tell that to the majority of property owners who agreed to assess themselves to pay for this project! This is no longer a war zone but I guess you didn’t notice. I disagree with your assessment of Mr. Gibson too. He took responsibility along with many others and we are getting a sewer.

              (1) 11 Total Votes - 6 up - 5 down

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