Clearing up misinformation about Cambria’s water supply

September 16, 2014
Amanda Rice

Amanda Rice


I am a regular reader of Cal Coast News, a Cambrian and a current elected board member of Cambria CSD. And I respect the role of journalism as the fourth branch of government. A strong, free and curious press is critical for good government and a well-informed citizenry.

I say all of that as a preface to the corrections and my own understanding of the project that is the subject Mr Blanck’s opinion piece.

Blanck said, “Did you ever wonder why your due process rights were usurped by the Cambria CSD (CCSD) when you were not asked whether you preferred “toilet-to-tap” water for $15 million or 300 acre-feet of fresh well water from an existing well for the cost of a postage stamp and a water rights application the CCSD has known about since 2010 — and not acted on?”

The community did have an opportunity to have a say on the project. The Board proposed a rate increase (under prop 218) that will be used only to pay for this emergency project. There were 800 Cambrians who protested the rate increase, but not the 50 percent plus one (1,971 protests in 45 day window) required to prohibit the Board from enacting the rate increase.

The dollars brought in by the increase are restricted to paying off the indebtedness incurred for this project.

And the financial instrument for the “emergency” project takes the CCSD assets as collateral, including the bank’s ability to repossess the Fiscilini East-West ranch and develop it.

The financial instrument (installment sale agreement) does have a term that encumbers the District’s ad valorum property tax revenues as collateral the event that the additional rates and charges recently approved by the Board do not cover the payment amount. This was described as a “standard” term on all District loans over at least the past decade. The Fiscalini Ranch is not in danger of being re-possessed.
The principal amount borrowed was $8,939,000 dollars. The lender offered the District a fixed 4.11 percent over 20 years. The estimated total debt service when amortized over the full term of the agreement is $13,170,000.

Blanck said, “This is just more of the “pave paradise and put up a parking lot” mentality exemplified by the massacre of healthy trees, except the CCSD wants you to pay for developer’s profits with the fake ‘emergency’ project. And even the county is in on it, improperly issuing an “emergency” permit for a project in a coastal tidal wetland without authority.”

This is not a false emergency. It is being designed to meet the needs of the current residents, not for developers or any possible profits. The county had limited options under its own policies and ordinances when the district applied for an emergency permit. Understanding the limitation of their authority under an emergency permit, the county placed important conditions on that permit. Most importantly, the district must apply for a regular coastal development permit within 30 days of the emergency permit approval, which we did. All the usual requirements that a project like this must meet (like environmental review, county planning process, etc) apply. No new development can be served by this project.

Blanck said, “Those Aug. 15, San Simeon Creek well levels are above the average for all years measured which proves there is currently no water emergency in Cambria, especially if the CCSD stops wasting water.”

The Aug 15 well levels likely reflect the fact that water that would have been sent through our pipes and into homes is instead being re-injected into the basin in a manner similar to how the project is eventually expected to operate.

Blanck said, “Then there is the actual health and safety risk to you from a “Toilet-to-Tap” project, not permitted like any other similar project in California, but rushed through the permitting process under the scam of being an “emergency.”

Mr Blanck is entitled to his opinion, of course. But this project is not being rushed through the department of drinking water’s (née public health department) process. Our contractor (CDM Smith) is currently conducting a 67 day tracer test that is meant to confirm the hydrological model developed earlier in the process.

The department of drinking water policies currently require a minimum of 60 days “travel time” between when water that has been filtered and purified is injected into the basin and when it is pumped back out for use. This travel time requirement was chosen out of an abundance of caution to ensure high quality water and the public health and safety of the users of that water.

Many in the water industry seem to be of the opinion that this is a far too strict regulatory policy. The department is currently in the process of drafting revisions to that policy and is expected to be available for public comment within the next 12-18 months.

Blanck said, “When was the change of the project from “brackish seawater” to a “Toilet-to-Tap” project ever discussed at a public meeting? So without any permits except the “emergency” permit, the CCSD is spending your money and risking your future.”

“Future Cambria tourists will quip, is that something swimming in your ice tea? Or, tourists will ask, do you think it is safe to breathe the water in the shower with worries about inhaling brain-eating amoebas? Local residents will wake up to the real danger and decide to move out, in mass to protect both their health and wallets,” Blanck added.

These paragraphs are simply intended to be inflammatory and raises fears that Blanck should know, as a professional hydrologist, have no basis in reality. We do not live in a third world country and we should be above this kind of fear-mongering.


Thank you Amanda for correcting Lou Blanck’s over-the-top piece that was full of errors and omissions. It’s time for Cambrians to have the water every civilized society needs for health, safety and even such luxuries as a vegetable garden, or heavens, a few flowers!

We’re all tired of listening to the naysayers who think our lovely town would be ruined if we all had enough water to flush our toilets, have friends stay over for the weekend or wash our clothes and our dishes with regularity.

The tide’s changing in Cambria; the majority of people support what the CCSD is doing and is speaking up to help ensure that the entire community can have the water confidence they need for health and happiness.

As the world turns

Swimmer, She did not correct anything; only provided the same misleading information that minions like you buy into everyday.

BTW Swimmer, no thanks to people like you, the central coast is turning into Orange county. You are probably from Orange county so it’s obvious.

The so-called “naysayers” are utilizing their democratic right to expose the truth, which the CCSD does not believe is applicable to the citizens of Cambria. The tide is changing if Rice and the rest of the Cambria Cabal force Cambrians to drink salvaged urine. The tide toward third world living.

Thank you illustrating my points.


Hi “As the World Turns,”

I didn’t provide any misleading information at all. I’m surprised you think Cambria is becoming like Orange County. It’s beautiful here, and water will only make it green again. I would hope you’d stick to the facts. The water we will be drinking will be safe; it’s not “salvaged urine.”

Let’s not attack each other personally. We are all Cambrians and an educated and fair-minded debate is healthy. I think you’ll see the pro-water people behave with civility, and I would hope and expect that those who disagree with us can too!

Let’s all make a pact: let’s talk to each other with respect and let’s produce the facts for each other to evaluate calmly.

As the world turns

Swimmer, we are not all Cambrians. There are those that live in Cambria and want to convert it to Orange County, such as you. You have an Orange County mentality. Sustainability is the key – not using recycled fecal matter and urine to make “Cambria green” again.

There are drought tolerate plants and trees that can be used rather than vegetation that uses water. The only reason to pressure Cambrians to drink each others’ fecal matter and urine is to allow your Orange county and Las Vegas friends to mass build. Otherwise, you would be advocating storage, education of drought tolerate vegetation (outreach), etc.

The “pro-fecal matter and urine” water advocates are not civil. They throw people out of public meetings, cut the public off when they are speaking publicly, and threaten individuals who believe in their democratic right to public speech.

It is difficult to respect someone when they are trying to force feed fecal matter and urine to an entire town, including small children and babies.


Even the drought tolerant plants are dying! Look around you. Cambria desperately needs water. Your discussion about urine and focal matter is simply not true, and I suspect you know that. Stick to the facts.

And no one has been thrown out of a public meeting.

As for lLas Vegas and Orange County friends, what in the world are you talking about?


I have been reading this thread. Swimmer, first, above you state that the water is to also be used to keep Cambria green. However, the Cambria CCS recently authorized the killing of a multitude of healthy “green” and tall trees on a preserve. These trees provided habitat to wildlife. Therefore, the CSD does not care about using water to keep the community green, otherwise, they would not be killing healthy trees.

Second, You state that drought tolerant plants are dying. You obviously do not know drought tolerant plants and I suggest you take a class in drought tolerant landscaping or visit the desert to see the plants, trees etc. that survive with little water.

Third, There was a meeting where three CCSD Board members were present (a quorum under the Brown Act), and public members were told to leave by a CCSD Board Member because the public members has provided questions regarding the fecal matter and urine water system. You may want to check your facts.

Fourth, unless you have been living under a rock, you know exactly who the Orange County and Las Vegas factions are but are trying to cover up for your bosses.

Fifth, you are spinning the issue of urine and FECAL matter (not focal). Cambrians will be forced to drink their own (and others) recycled waste. It is true.

It doesn’t take much grey (or is it GRAY?) matter to understand the CCSD’s strategy.

BYW: I love another posters logo, “My grandmother visited Cambria and all she brought back was e-coli.”


What are swimmer’s qualifications?

The tsunami will reverse the tide!


Simply Ms. Rice – you are deceiving the public. Simple fact is that Cambria as a community has been in a state of water crises for 25 plus years. And now we have an emergency. Simply it is an emergency created by inept leaders who have always been concerned about manipulating the truths and situation to fit their personal agenda. You claim, that” the water from this “emergency project” will not be used for new development.” Now that is an interesting position to boldly state and take. How will the water distribution department separate the “emergency project” water from existing water resources throughout the community, including that for, say new homes?

By the way, your reputation in New Orleans is something that every resident in Cambria should look into. You truly seem to be hobnobbing with local developers and financiers! In fact, one of your new found chums recently purchased 20 lots in Cambria and boldly states that they will have permits to building within 2 years.

There is no getting around that the article you were referencing was crafted to be inflammatory, but you truly need to stop twisting the facts to meet your needs and objectives. Back to the premise, you claim there is a “water emergency”. The state of an emergency would suggest that the factors and variables that led to the current “water crisis” were not foreseeable which is completely opposite of the truth. Again, Cambria has been in a “water crisis” – water deficit for over 25 years, thus piss poor planning and inept and incompetent leadership.

Lastly, the project hadn’t been approved by the SWRCB prior to the CSD implementing the new tax. Interesting a new tax being levied even though the SWRCB had denied the initial application.

By the way, she is from the East Bay region – as in the Delta region where the toilet to tap concept has been a standard for over 100 years.

As the world turns

Very articulate comments. Thank you for alerting those of us not familiar with a New Orleans past.


Lack of clear information seems to be the hallmark of this current board. Can someone explain “toilet to tap in regards to this project? I am ignorant how this is related . I agree that the protest vote was a sham. 45 days and the non votes being counted as yes, as well as no ballots in Spanish when many ratepayers speak no English.

wineguyjc, who and what are the developers buying 20 lots in Cambria?

can you clarify?

A recent request for any documentation to the ccsd seeking documentation of inquiries into a temporary desal project (renmember that one?) yielded no results. They did not even document what thy said they tried to find.

Incompetent at best, corrupt at worst.


The intake well for the CCSD fake emergency project is adjacent the decades of wastewater discharge from the CCSD sewer plant next to San Simeon creek. In the summer, when this project is supposed to supply water and the creek is not running, essentially all the water there is wastewater.


How do we find out about Rice’s reputation in New Orleans?


Oddly enough, in jurisdictions where waste water is discharged into streams it has to be treated to a HIGHER level than drinking water because it cannot be chlorinated. There has not been one single case of illness due to properly treated reclaimed water. In one case a park drinking fountain was found to have been mistakenly connected to the purple pipe for years and had not caused a problem.


The Cambria CSD wastewater discharge to percolation ponds adjacent San Simeon creek contains pollution (nitrates and nutrients) that promote algae growth and kill steelhead trout from the resulting low dissolved oxygen.


obispan, There are infectious disease specialist who have stated drinking other people’s wastes (toilet to tap) is irresponsible due to the risk of spreading disease. One such specialist is Professor Peter Collignon, an infectious diseases physician and microbiologist.

He states, “It should be a last-resort option for many reasons, but especially because of the potential catastrophic public health implications if something in this complex and very-high-risk process goes wrong.”

To say that no one has gotten sick to date shows ignorance and lacks logic. First, not all cases may be reported. Second, using toilet water for a water supply has been a recent development. Third, long term illnesses caused by drinking recycled human excrement are not known. Ingesting water containing human pathogens can cause illnesses.


I know a person that was trying to prove “obispan”s point and drank a beaker of wastewater on TV. A few years later they died of Leukemia. Perhaps “obispan” will volunteer to drink the first beaker on TV and we can watch them for 5 years before we decide if it is safe enough for each of us.


Guy drinks a beaker of wastewater and dies 5 years later from leukemia? No jumping to conclusions here…you must be a scientist.

As the world turns

Cambria King (lol), if you think there is no correlation, please take the first drink of CCSD sponsored recycled fecal matter and urine.


Unless the wastewater contains toxic or radioactive chemicals (not viruses, bacteria or other organisms), you can’t get Leukemia from it. There are many ways that a person can develop Leukemia, other cancers or even biologically-sourced diseases over a 5 year period. The odds against inadequately treated toilet water causing a disease more than 5 days after drinking are very high.

It is possible to clean up toilet water sufficiently to make it drinkable. The question is whether or not the design and operation of the treatment facility is up to the challenge. If it isn’t, yeah, there could be some serious health problems but they will occur quickly and it won’t take long to figure out why.


OnTheOtherHand, please be the first to drink Cambria’s wastewater water when it is delivered to the community. You do not provide citations for your thoughts so they have little weight.


Toilet to Tap is NOT SAFE when it is rushed through the permitting process and politicians are pressuring the regulators to make hasty decisions based on a non-existing water emergency.

The CCSD web site shows San Simeon creek well water levels over 6 feet higher in elevation than last year and above average on August 15th. If Cambria didn’t run out of water last year with no rationing, they certainly are not going to run out of it this year with Stage III rationing imposed on the residents.


Prop 218 and the Democratic Process.

” Automatic Rate Increases ” and Prop. 218 Voting Process certainly “do not” reflect the will of the people.

According to public records, using this process, it is nearly impossible to defeat ” Automatic Rate Increases”.

This process is rigged against the taxpayers ! You can have yes votes and no votes, but for those who do not return their ballots, Those Votes are Counted as Yes Votes !!!

If the board members really wanted a democratic vote of the people, then let’s place these Rate Increases on a ballot, with a straight up or down Vote of the People.

As we have seen from all across the County from the Oceano CSD, South County Sanitation, Cambria, and other cities-districts, we have” No Checks or Balances” and have literally given these public agencies an ” Open Tax Checkbook”.

They have no incentive to reduce Waste, Costs, or to Eliminate Ineffective Programs. Mismanagement and Accountability are lost when you can cover your mistakes with ” Automatic Rate Increases” that really harm a lot of residents.

The attitude of Board Members and Managers, reminds me a lot of the times before Prop. 13 was approved. It Is time for fairness, balance, and democracy to be restored to this out of control process. Taxpayers and Ratepayers deserve a Fair Square Deal.

” The Power To Tax, Is the Power To Destroy”



So, interestingly enough, Ms. Rice loosely counters point by point however fails to address the final paragraph of the opinion piece “Blanck said, “When was the change of the project from “brackish seawater” to a “Toilet-to-Tap” project ever discussed at a public meeting?

Ms. Rice says that “These paragraphs are simply intended to be inflammatory” and fails to answer the question.

So when did the project change from “brackish seawater” to a “Toilet-to-Tap” project?

Extremely Stoic

Are you from Orange County?

As the world turns

If she isn’t, there is no doubt she is taking her orders from Orange County lawyers and developers.


Oh, yea…Amanda is taking orders from Orange County? That is just plain stupid.

As the world turns

A major of CCSD members have meetings and throw people out. The major of CCSD violate the Brown Act by not allowing the meeting to be public and you call others stupid?


No I am not from Orange County, but I was here before you got here. You started ruining it when you and your ilk showed up

As the world turns

Cambria “King” (lol), (aka CCSD Board Member). You are ruining the lives of Cambrians because you knee before the Orange county lawyers and developers, and now demand Cambrians drink reconstituted fecal matter. How much money will you make from developing Cambria? How many lots do you have on the wait list? How many do your friends have on the wait list?

Are you someone who has not been successful in business and therefore feel the need to call yourself “CambriaKing” to feel good about yourself?

Do you desire power so greatly that you will force Cambrians to drink each others’ urine and fecal matter?

As the world turns

What else would Rice say since she helped create and is an advocate of this mess. Rice should do her job and outreach to the community through means other than allowing the CCSD Board cutting off public comments and threatening citizens during public meetings.

She is as liable as the other CCSD Board Members.


And what are your professional qualifications?