Is Arroyo Grande violating its own water conservation laws?
September 8, 2014
By KAREN VELIE
Amid mandatory water conservation efforts, Arroyo Grande city staff has dumped 30,000 to 50,000 gallons of potable water down the gutter while telling the code enforcement officer to ignore the situation.
After deciding to paint one of the city’s water tanks, city staff elected to drain the last 30,000 to 50,000 gallons of drinking water by letting it flow into the gutter. Arroyo Grande Utilities Supervisor Shane Taylor said it was not feasible to try to capture the water.
“That is why there is a drain,” Taylor said. “That is how we empty water. It was only about 30,000 gallons.”
Several neighbors of the water tanks said they watched the water flow down the gutter for almost 20 hours. At least one neighbor reported the criminal offense to the police department.
“Here we are conserving water and they let it run down the street,” Ralph Bush said. “It was certainly a waste in this severe drought.”
Under an Arroyo Grande water conservation ordinance, excessive water running into the gutter is punishable as a misdemeanor.
However, the city code enforcement officers serve as police officers who also take direction from the public works department. An officer said he was ordered by an upper level city manager not to look into the issue, but declined to disclose who gave him the order.
Taylor responded to questions about the water discharge by saying that the city has a permit with the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board to dispose of potable water that allows the city to violate its own ordinance.
However, Michael Thomas, the water board’s assistant executive officer, said they do not give permits for potable water releases, though the board does for other types of water discharges, and that the water board does not exempt cities from violating municipal codes.
“If water meets water quality standards, it can be released,” Thomas said. “Our permits do not impact city municipal rules.”
On Aug. 26, the Arroyo Grande City Council voted to pay Verdin Marketing $70,000 to launch a public water conservation education program aimed at teaching residents and business owners how to conserve water.
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