Los Osos sewer contractor dumping millions of gallons of water into Morro Bay

September 24, 2013
Water a Los Osos sewer contractor is dumping into Morro Bay.

Water a Los Osos sewer contractor is dumping into Morro Bay.

By JOSH FRIEDMAN

Every three days, contractor W.A. Rasic dumps more water into Morro Bay than an Olympic-size pool can hold. It’s part of the Los Osos Wastewater Project, putting in a sewer system for the area.

As workers dig trenches for the sewers, groundwater rises to fill them. The water has to be removed for work to continue, and Rasic is responsible for getting rid of the water. Rasic takes the water and dumps it into storm drains that lead to Morro Bay.

But, where that water has been going has drawn criticism from the Los Osos Community Services District (LOCSD) and Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board. Both have said that the water should not be dumped in the bay. Instead, the water, which could be drinkable with only minor treatment, should be allowed to filter back into the Los Osos aquifer.

“It’s unfortunate the county didn’t plan well enough in advance to use the water in some beneficial way,” said longtime Los Osos resident Jeff Edwards.

The dumping of the water into the bay comes amid a major water shortage in Los Osos. Aside from light drizzle Saturday, it hasn’t rained in Los Osos since spring.

Since 2007, the county has reported the supply of water in the Los Osos Groundwater Basin to be of Level III severity. Level III is the most severe shortage in the county’s Resource Management System. In a 10-year span between 2002 and 2012, water usage in Los Osos declined by approximately 40 percent, according to the county’s 2013 resource management report.

The Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board directed the county not to discharge to the bay without first exhausting all land discharge options and gaining approval from the water board.

“The county may discharge to Morro Bay only after the Central Coast Water Board agrees that land disposal options are infeasible,” water board director Kenneth Harris wrote in an August 7 letter to the county public works department.

But, Rasic began discharging water to the bay in early August without approval from the board and prior to the completion of a network of pipes that would transport the water to a leach field, where it could soak back into the aquifer.

Water board staff member David LaCaro confirmed with CalCoastNews last week that the board never gave the county approval to discharge to the bay.

“There hasn’t been any formal letter agreeing to the discharge,” LaCaro said.

As Rasic continues to discharge to the bay, the county still has not completed construction of piping to the 8-acre Broderson leach field, which is expected to serve as a discharge location for recycled water when the sewer is operational.

LaCaro said poor planning on the part of the county accounts for the dewatering beginning prior to the completion of the piping.

“For the most part, it was an ill conceived plan, and we weren’t privy to their construction scheduling,” LaCaro said.

Two weeks prior to the beginning of the dewatering, Rasic submitted a plan to the water board that listed pumping into Morro Bay as “Option 1” among four proposals for discharging the water. The plan also stated that Rasic would only pipe the water to Broderson, or another basin, if it did not pass environmental quality tests.

In addition to the water board, the LOCSD Board of Directors has likewise criticized the county for not completing the piping to Broderson prior to beginning the dewatering project.

“The fact that the Broderson facility/infrastructure is not available for discharge is a planning issue and not a viable excuse for water surface discharge,” wrote LOCSD Board President Leonard Moothart in a September 11 letter to the water board.

In the letter, Moothart requested that the water board stop all discharge to the bay and order the county to expedite completion of the Broderson field in order to discharge to land.

The LOCSD also suggested using county owned drainage percolation basins as alternative land discharge locations and, if necessary, trucking the water to the basins.

At last week’s Board of Supervisors meeting, County Supervisor Bruce Gibson, who represents Los Osos, and Public Works Director Paavo Ogren criticized the LOCSD board for suggesting alternatives to discharging to the bay.

Ogren said that trucking water would cause considerable traffic and pollution. He also said dewatering of trenches must occur in order to lay the piping to Broderson.

But, Ogren did not say what is taking so long to do so. Neither Ogren, nor Gibson responded to CalCoastNews emails asking why the piping is not complete and why the contractor is discharging to the bay.

LaCaro said cost, as well as timing and power usage, factor into the county’s decision to discharge to the bay.

From the beginning of August through early September, Rasic dumped approximately 250,000 gallons of water a day that it pumped out of the ground in Los Osos, according to self-reported figures.

In comparison, an Olympic-sized pool holds 660,000 gallons of water. For every three days of its first month of dewatering, Rasic, on average, dumped more water into Morro Bay than Olympic-sized pool could hold.

As construction speeds up and rainy season begins begins, the amount discharged will likely increase. County dewatering plans have discussed the possibility that Rasic could pump 8 million gallons per day.

In compliance with its project permit, Rasic ordered laboratory tests of the water it is pumping into Morro Bay. Environmental analysis firm Fruit Growers Laboratory conducted the tests and determined that the water being pumped only needs minor treatment to achieve drinking level quality.

LOCSD water rates put a price tag of $30,000 on 1 million gallons of water. Over the course of the dewatering project, the county could waste millions of dollars of water. If pumping increases to 1 million gallons a day, it will take a little more than a month to dump $1 million worth of water.

Some public comment speakers at Board of Supervisors meetings have suggested that the county has approved dumping to the bay because it is cheaper than piping to basins and the wastewater project is costing more than expected.

Observers of the dewatering project have also suggested the possibility of piping water aboveground to Broderson or to county or privately owned percolation basins. Aboveground pipes are currently in place on El Morro Avenue, where they connect several blocks of wells.

LaCaro said the water board is still determining whether it is actually not feasible for the contractor to pump the water onto land. He also said the board is determining what, if any, water quality impacts the current method of discharge is creating.

If regulators determine that the water discharge to the bay is harming the ecosystem of the Morro Bay National Estuary, the county could face hefty fines.


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godislanguage

Capitalizing ditch water is about the most insane idea I’ve ever heard of!!!!


…and to those who think this is issue is worth our time, this song is for you!!!



BeenThereDoneThat

Here’s something that got me thinking. This ground water is right below the surface i.e. high water table. Now most coastal communities can have problems with seawater intrusion into water aquifers that are close to the coast. Well here is close to coast and surface. Do we not know if the water is brackish and saltwater tainted? If that is the case then this arguing about dumping water is a REAL MUTE POINT!!!


zaphod

MOOT POINT


BeenThereDoneThat

Thanks for the heads up Zap but common, give us something a little more substantial. At least a link or something, in regards to story.


TaxMeAgain

Zap is simply pointing out that you have yet to master the English language. Twice, I may point out.


BeenThereDoneThat

So my mastering the English language has what bearing on commenting? So what? The thought is the same. Is it that you or Zap have not mastered any ideas other than to critique others? At least I put out a thought and an idea. What have you contributed to the conversation?


MaryMalone

What an absurd comment.


1. Water that close to the surface is not potable groundwater. It is contaminated with surface contaminates (such as fertilizers, household ground spills, oil, gasoline….the list goes on and on).


2. If saltwater intrusion was that close to the ground surface, Los Osos would not be able to use its aquifer for potable water. They would be trucking it in from elsewhere.


BeenThereDoneThat

Well Mary the only absurd comment is your uninformed reply.


My comment in post was most coastal communities. If you would reference the link below, look at the first paragraph, sentence five last three words…….many coastal areas.


Or same article down page part starting with the tag………Effect on Water Supply.


These are all things I learned thirty years ago at Cuesta.


Mary go outside and look up. The sky isn’t falling.


BeenThereDoneThat
MaryMalone

If you are not referencing “most coastal communities” to Los Osos, why even bring that information into the discussion?


brook

as alwayals, if there’s a right way – or an illegal, underhanded way, SLO county

will always the latter!


MaryMalone

It is the slimy contractors located here. I would not be surprised if some of them had done time at Pelican Bay.


Myself

If I read the article correctly it says the County, Rasic can’t just do this on their own the county has Ok’d it, it a done deal, piping it to another spot is going to be costly, trucking it is not feasible, at 3500 gallons a truck load you figure out how many loads a day to haul 250,000 gallons of water.


jimmy_me

I was told by a sheriff that Rasic was stealing water from unmetered hydrants. I thus have no doubt the Rasic is doing everything it can without regards to rules in order to save a buck. The better approach would be to do it right. If Los Osos ground water is polluted enough to warrant a billion-dollar sewer, we should not be dumping that groundwater into the bay.


Niles Q

The biggest water tender you’ll find holds 5,000 gallons, so you do the math on how many truck trips it would take.

What is most interesting about all this is that the water was tested and “determined that the water being pumped only needs minor treatment to achieve drinking level quality.”

What happened to all the nitrates?

What happened to the septage and the fecal bacteria that is supposed to be in that upper aquifer water and formed the whole reason for insisting that a sewer system be built?

Or by “minor treatment” do they mean reverse osmosis? Which I would argue is anything BUT minor treatment.

Also, if they call a halt to the construction work now, the contractor will rack up even more money in change orders that will have to be passed. You can’t just hire a contractor to do a job on a schedule and then tell him to idle his workers, his equipment and his income for 3 weeks or a month or two months while they finish the giant leach field.

And what happens when (if) it starts to rain? Construction in areas with high groundwater will get even more messy, causing more delays and costing the people of Los Osos, who will ultimately pay ALL the bills, even more money in the long run.

They need to hurry through the Baywood and Cuesta-by-the-sea areas before it starts to rain.

This whole complaint is just stupid. The regional water board should shut its mouth and support getting this thing done ASAP, after all this entire thing is being done under THEIR orders! So STFU, Dips**ts


MaryMalone

To support hurrying through any construction project is an indication of either lack of experience with construction contractors or a vested interest in supporting the contractor’s illegal actions.


I am sure there will be problems Rasic will have to deal with when he starts doing things legally. However, just letting him act illegally to meet some false hurry-up need is completely inappropriate.


MaryMalone

Gee, I am SO sorry that the county and its contractor assumed it could just illegally dump contaminated water into the bay, even though there was no permit issued for such dumping.


If the slimy county officials running this clusterfrack project and their equally slimy contractor entered into a bid where the amount for services was insufficient to include legal disposal of contaminated water, then that is a problem between the county and the contractor.


Until the county and the contractor can reach an agreement for work to go forward with disposal of the contaminated water into a permitted environment, then work has to stop.


I’m sure, once the Fish and Wildlife conservation project (protecting three species in LO) begins in a month or so, that Fish and Wildlife folks will be happy to assist Paavo Ogren and his slimy contractor in designing a program by which permitted disposal of contaminated water is ensured.


MaryMalone

The county is not the water board.


W.A. Rasic is illegally dumping into the bay. Game over. Stop his work immediately and begin the investigation.


How much it costs W.A. Rasic to legally do the work for which he has been contracted is W.A. Rasic’s problem. If he planned from the start to illegally dump construction waste into the bay, then that just adds to the charges he can be brought up on.


mrcyberdoc

OK, so here’s a simple solution. There are several rainwater catch basins around Los Osos, one being next to the post office. Why not pump the water into the catch basins and let the water percolate back into the ground water.


SloNative46

Why not?


1. Most of those catch basins are on private property and owners may seek compensation or simply say “no.”

2. How many catch basins would be needed to contain 250,000 gallons per day?

3. How quickly would the ground in the catch basins become so saturated the water would not percolate?

4. How much traffic would be required to truck the water to the various catch basins?


Those are only a few of the reasons why such a plan would face difficulties.


SanLuisBusinessowners

Ground Water is now a toxic substance? lets be reasonable let the contractor do his job and get out of there


a Olympic size swimming pool of water is not allot in the scope of things…


.if you delay the contractor from doing his job then more pollution from septic tanks shall dump into the ground


doggin

Federal laws dictate that any run off from rain, washing cars, pressure washing for painting or cleaning of items, spills of any chemical,paint,pesticide,fertilizer auto chemicals even hosing down your drive way is considered discharge and subject to being controlled,contained on your property, or a permit drawn to discharge it onto a storm drain or body of water with test to prove its non hazardous. These are know as modern Storm Water regs, and they are not getting any more lenient. Any construction company intending to dump water onto a street, storm drain or otherwise is required by law to pull a permit.Rasic should have, by law, on hand something like a “SWPPP”, Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan. Where is it, and what does it say? If the county allowed them to discharge they should be held accountable for any violations the RWQCB levies, end of story. The people of this county are paying a fortune to prevent the alleged Nitrate tainted water in the ground, that is not fit to consume and leaching into the bay, buy having a WWTP built. In the process of eliminating the problem they are discharging millions of gallons of this Nitrate tainted ground water and dumping into the body of water their trying to protect. Does this make sense? Sounds like another SLO county good old boy, back door circle jerk.


MaryMalone

Thank you, Doggin. Great explanation.


MaryMalone

It is water from the ground, but not the potable groundwater pumped and treated before it is consumed by the people of Los Osos.


Yes, water can be a toxic substance, depending on what is polluting it. This construction wastewater W.A. Rasic is illegally dumping can be full of all types of surface pollutants.


I am so sick of these slimy contractors that the County and its Board of Supervisors let do whatever they want, and make the people pay to fix it, or live with the aftermath.


The Wallace Company, W.A. Rasic–the same disregard for laws and regulations, leaving the same toxic liability for the people.


MaryMalone

QUOTING THE ARTICLE: “At last week’s Board of Supervisors meeting, County Supervisor Bruce Gibson, who represents Los Osos, and Public Works Director Paavo Ogren criticized the LOCSD board for suggesting alternatives to discharging to the bay.


Supervisor Gibson is a hypocrite, and an obnoxious one, at that.


While I agree with his stance on the emergency measures to (attempt) to save the Paso Groundwater Basin by stopping the bleeding dry the Paso GW Basin by grape ag interests in north county, for Gibson to then criticize the LOCSD, who are concerned about both pollution of the bay and wasting water which could be let percolate into the LO aquifer, leaves Gibson speaking out of both sides of his mouth at once.


That is a sizeable chunk of water W.A. Rasic is dumping into the bay. With the LO GW basin in such a fragile status, it shows very, very poor leadership for Gibson to condone wasting millions of gallons. The fact that the water board has not given approval to the dumping just makes it worse. W.A. Rasic looks like the worst kind of contractor–one that sneaks around the water board–by his bay-dumping practices.


And Gibson supports this? Well, considering how Gibson likes to sneak around, that can be understood. However, consistency in policy positions is needed for any politician to have credibility with the voters. Gibson needs to re-think his flip-flop policy status if he wants to retain any shred of credibility with the voters.


In addition, has W.A.Rasic published the results of the water sampling? How often is it required? When was the last one done? Groundwater quality can change as one moves through the aquifer, especially if one goes more deeply. W.A. Rasic’s sneaky dumping of water into the bay looks like he is trying to cover up something. How do we know he isn’t trying to hide practices that would qualify as nonpoint source pollution?


Gibson’s reaction to the LOCSD’s concerns about a contractor’s unpermitted dumping into the bay makes Gibson look defensive and angry…like he got caught supporting something he knew was wrong. How close is Gibson to W.A. Rasic?


Pelican1

Mary, once again you are allowing your contempt for for Gibson bias your thinking. He has nothing to do with the enforcement of the Clean Water Act. Please, do some research before you state your OPINION. at no time was a permit required tom discharge the water into the bay. Rather, it was a question of permission….the same water board that that has been mocked, lied to, insulted, ignored, and dismissed by a previous LOCSD.

Please, get over Gibson and open your eyes to reality.


Word

Pelican1 says:”Please, get over Gibson”


Unlikely considering the upcoming election.


MaryMalone

Gibson’s reaction was unprofessional and it made him look unbalanced and inept for his position as county supervisor.


As long as Gibson is unfit for his position, I will continue to criticize him. Some people may not mind bending over for dishonest politicians. I am not one of those people.


Your mileage may vary.


BeenThereDoneThat

Having lived here for thirty three years, nothing compares to the continued lunacy known as the Los Osos Sewer project.


So now we have people pissing and moaning about the water. So do another study. Figure out the costs to now recover water on a TEMPORARY basis. How much will it cost in money and further delays? Then they will piss and moan about that.


If this was a permanent situation then, yes I would say do something. This will be about another two years to finish. It will probably take that long to do studies, planning and coming up with extra money to get it from point A to point B.


Atascadero has high ground water over in the Morro Rd. area. It goes from about two feet below the surface during the rainy season to about four feet during the summer.


It’s GROUND WATER PEOPLE, GET OVER IT!!! Finish the project so the rest of the county doesn’t have to hear the continuing saga know as the Los Osos Sewer Project.


SLOthinker

Oh come on, common sense is not allowed on this subject.


Pelican1

Common sense has not prevailed in Los Osos for decades.The usual suspects are still at it, attempting in any way they can to delay or stop this project. Fortunately for the rest of us, the project will continue and eventually these folks will have to find something other than obstructionism as their legacy.


MaryMalone

Since when is it “common sense” for a county supervisor to criticize a local government agency for objecting over illegal dumping in the bay?


r0y

Just wait… someone will “retire” having worked on nothing but the Los Osos sewer fiasco. Kids will have been born and grown and left, never knowing what it was like to NOT have this problem.


…and to think we won WWII in four years…


MaryMalone

The amount of time it takes to do a project has zero to do with how Rasic’s illegal dumping into the bay should be handled.


MaryMalone

W.A. Rasic (the contractor) is disposing of water in ways not approved by the water board.


That is not pure GW he is dumping. It will be mixed with sediment from the trench digging, which will pollute the bay and harm the bay’s ecosystem as its denizens are covered in sediment that W.A. Rasic was not permitted to dump by the water board.


In addition, we don’t know what the quality of the water is that he is dumping. Groundwater varies in quality, depending on the location from which it is accessed.


Certainly, sewer trenching is more shallow than the wells that access groundwater in Los Osos.


Has W.A. Rasic been allowed to dump water of unknown quality into the bay via storm drains based on ONE water-quality test? That is patently absurd, since water quality can change depending on where they are excavating.


Since the water board has not permitted him to dump water into the ocean, W.A. Rasic’s work needs to be immediately stopped until he implements another plan, and the company and its officers needs to be investigated for nonpoint source pollution of the bay.


MaryMalone

How do you know it is just groundwater that is being dumped? The contractor’s sneaky dumping, without water board permit, into the bay looks like W.A. Rasic is trying to hide something.


When was the last water testing of the discharged water? Oh, they only did one test?


I can’t believe, after all the scrutiny of the LO sewer project, that they would actually allow a contractor, without permitting, dumping water into the bay!


Shut down W.A. Rasic’s operation until the company can come up with a disposal site that doesn’t potentially pollute the bay.


BeenThereDoneThat

O.k. Mary so what do you think he is dumping? There is a high ground water table (and I’ve dealt with stuff like that in Atascadero like I mentioned) and it can be a pain. So what is he putting in there? Coffee grounds from his morning coffee? Dumping his motor oil he changed over the weekend?


Mary it is pretty straight forward that he has a TON of water in the way and he has to get rid of it to work. So what do you suggest? Do you want to go down there and help them work in it?


MaryMalone

It is water contaminated by surface contaminants. They don’t pump water for drinking from 2- to 10-feet.


Most people want the project finished. But do you really want to have to start on a NEW project to deal with the environmental disasters left by sleezy contractors and their toady politician pals on the board of supervisors?


They’ve been letting The Wallace Group run roughshod over Los Osos for decades.


W.A. Rasic is just the latest version of kind of corruption and damage delivered by The Wallace Group.


BeenThereDoneThat

See my reply on first page, in regards to many of the same surface contaminates you mention, already running into ocean every time it rains.


MaryMalone

Red herring argument. We are discussing Rasic’s illegal dumping of contaminated water into the bay, not stormwater runoff from other sources.