Wastewater project wastes water

July 18, 2013
Tom Salmon

Tom Salmon


On June 7, CalCoastNews was gracious enough to post my opinion piece explaining the engineering complications and additional overruns surrounding the dewatering for the Los Osos sewer project. Since then little has changed.

Above ground infrastructure has been installed along the bay front, wells have been turned on and are pumping/removing upper aquifer and groundwater. This water is held for an undetermined time in a 20,000 gallon “Frac” tank that appears to be emptied into water tenders for use as dust control, and now is being spread at the Tri-W site.

What is not available, after repeated Public Records Act requests, are the laboratory test results for this water’s quality. Testing is the first step in a process, that is required to be done, when they encounter groundwater, or move millions of gallons of water, from one location to another. For their own safety, and ours, it is prudent to test it for pollutants; pollutants can range from human waste (as is expected in Los Osos’ groundwater), oils and grease from automobiles, to heavy metals naturally occurring in soil, pharmaceuticals, and other hazardous materials.

The county’s waiver and approval, denied the need for continuous and accurate testing. Harvey Packard of the CCRWQCB has approved this waiver, he needs to hear your dissatisfaction on this matter. His agency number is (805) 542-4639, please call him immediately.

The only tests being given to the RWCQB, state the nitrate levels we’ve been forced to correct, are now in the acceptable range. This set of tests were given to the county before the groundbreaking ceremony last year, no additional tests have been conducted. Our county public works department knows this. $200 million that will not address these water issues, is wrong. This is not correct, but a band-aid approach, but with a terrible cost.

The dumping of an estimated 7 million gallons a day onto the Tri-W, is a waste of water. No good steward of the planet would allow this elimination of a resource! The water is obtained at a level of nearly 25 feet, why would we send this into the bay? This is not just groundwater, nor, water from seeps, where much of the prior tests were conducted, but water that must stay in our zone usage.

Look at the Paso Robles situation, the SLO Board of Supervisors is conducting hearings to avoid the loss of usable water.

But, if it is indeed this toxic mix as asserted by the Regional Water Quality Control Board for the last three decades; then why is it being used for dust control, or spread back into the center of town? This is just a $200 million squandering of this communities money!

From an engineering perspective, the answers and statements from your governmental agencies are incorrect and just plain wrong. This county hasn’t even purchased the property for the plant yet, nearly $50 million have been spent. The engineering is faulty, the logic and critical determination is inept at best.

We are witnessing a poorly managed project, similar to the “Big Dig” (200 percent cost overrun), the incomplete “Bay Bridge”(250 percent cost overrun) and the yet to be “High Speed Rail”( nearly double the engineers estimate). This is how so many civil engineering dollars end up wasted and stolen. Unfortunately, the above mentioned failures have federal dollars used, here my neighbors will be forced to create a revenue stream,that may never be payed off!

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

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Seems like a cost effective way to get the water to hold down the dust during construction vs hauling it from the deep well up Clark Road as they were doing prior Myers drilling the shallow wells.

There are numerous shallow wells (100′ to 200′ ) in the basin used for drinking water and approved by the health department with acceptable nitrate levels. There are also maps showing the locations of known wells.

I doubt very much whether any lasting environmental harm is being done.

Great well managed crew. Let them do their job.

Dust control is a condition of every construction project, it’s “mandated” and enforced by the APCD. Nonpotable water is available at any sewer plant, even ours in Morro Bay would be willing to supply the Los Osos project with some rather than dump in into Estero Bay (at a million gallons a day).

The trench water is clean? Now I’m confused. $200 million to clean clean water? Seems to me a water treatment plant to polish the water would have been a lot cheaper and a whole lot less messy for you folks.

If you don’t like using trench water for dust control then the other choice is lower aquifer drinking water or trucked in water and the cost to do that. Complain to the Coastal Commission if you don’t like dust control. It is mandated in the CDP.

Please point us to a link showing that all the test wells have acceptable water. The County is on a schedule for testing – were you aware of that? Nitrate levels vary from season to season and from year to year. One test proves nothing.

Where would you prefer the County place the water pumped from the trenches? A million gallons seeps into the bay daily right now with no correlation to the construction project.

Your opinions are just that, but are not held by everyone and I for one disagree.

Our “zone usage” means what? Our drinking water comes from the lower aquifer at present.