Cambria facing almost $600,000 in fines

February 12, 2017
Cambria General Manager Jerry Gruber

Cambria General Manager Jerry Gruber


Editor’s Note: The Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board’s complaint and notices of violation are included at the bottom of this article.

The Cambria Community Services District is facing almost $600,000 in fines because district staff has chronically filed late reports and failed to comply with water quality regulations, according to a Feb. 9 complaint from the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board. As a result, the water board slapped Cambria with three notices of violation.

In 2015, regulators began informing district staff that they were not in compliance with reporting requirements for its emergency water desalination plant. Because of this, in addition to the fines, the water board is considering issuing a cease and desist order for the desalination plant, which has already cost the district more than $13 million.

Even though there is a $1,000 a day fine for late reporting, district staff has been late on filing reports 466 days during the past two years. District staffers also failed to properly report flooding events and properly operate the brine pond.

Because of the issues, the water board helped the district eliminate duplicative monitoring and construct a tool to aid district staff in completing required monitoring in a timely fashion. The water board also sent the district reminders of upcoming reporting dates and overdue reports.

“Given the extensive assistance water board staff has provided to the district, water board staff considers the chronic failure to submit timely reports and updates of significant changes to the surface impoundment to be egregious violations of water quality regulations and orders, and as such to pose a serious threat to the integrity of the water board’s regulatory program and water quality,” according to a notice of violation.

On Jan. 10, Cambria resident Tina Dickason called the water board to inform them of flooding at the plant’s brine pond. Dickason also shared photos she had taken of the flooding with the water board.

Flooding at Cambria's well field on Jan. 4. Photo compliments of Tina Dickason.

Flooding at Cambria’s well field on Jan. 4. Photo compliments of Tina Dickason.

At a Jan. 19 district board meeting, Dickason voiced her concerns about the flooding and the possible contamination it could cause.

District General Manager Jerry Gruber responded by publicly chastising Dickason for contacting the water board.

“Frankly, I just think it gets really old when Ms. Dickason continues to take pictures and sends them to Regional Water Quality Control Board and takes up their staff time and takes up our staff time,” Gruber said during the Jan. 19 meeting. “It wastes a lot of our time. It wastes a tremendous amount of regional water quality control board staff time. They have better things to do.

“If I was to do a public records request from State Water Resources Control Board, from Regional Water Quality Control Board, from the county and from the California Coastal Commission on the four or five people that [sic]. It will probably fill this table.

“And some point in time, I am going to do that, just to show you that it borderlines harassment and she knows it. I got a call from the Regional Water Quality Control Board this morning, they have better things to do than to be Tina Dickason’s servant. And that’s how they feel,” Gruber added.

In its complaint, the water board condemned Gruber for his treatment of Dickason.

“We do not agree with your representation of our position regarding information we receive from Ms. Dickason or other members of the public,” according to the water board’s complaint. “We value the information and reports we get from citizens, and we request that you publicly retract your statements. Please do not characterize water board staff’s position in this manner or speak for water board staff in the future.”

In one of the notices of violation, the water board orders the district to provide technical information and reports or face further action including additional fines and state enforcement.

“If the water board elects to refer the matter to the attorney general, the superior court may impose civil liability for up to $5,000 per day for each violation (California Water Code section 13268(b)(2)),” the complaint says. “Days of violation and the associated potential civil liability continue to accrue for each day of non-compliance. The water board reserves its right to take any enforcement action authorized by law.”

Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Boardm ENFORCEMENT PROGRAM:  by CalCoastNews on Scribd

Jorge Estrada

In my opinion these fines are nothing more than the typical inter-agency money exchange which is ultimately funded by the rate payers. Do you every read about the Water Quality Control extortionist enforcing their will / law on individuals? Heck no, that is always a private civil issue and they don’t have the funding to waste on no return, they need to get paid.


We all have Sanders and his lackeys to thank for this mess. Sanders, maybe you can your law firm’s development clients to pay for this disaster rather than the Cambrian ratepayers.


I guess this will be a bad hair day for Mr. Gruber.


CSD’s DON’T work. They are merely a license to steal under the auspices of local governance.


John Oliver says it beautifully – he will at least make you laugh at the special district fiascos. This broadcast was sent to North County voters a day or two before their special district vote. They got it – 77% of them. When will the rest of us wake up and start attending special district meetings and demanding accountability?


And Jerry Gruber got a raise why?


This is going to cost the ratepayer dearly.

Gruber should be fired right after he and the board apologize in public to Tina Dickason!


Hmmmm. Who trained Gruber? Sounds very much like the John Wallace school of management. So the sewer system isn’t working right. Where has John Wallace been involved? He was a director of public works for the County of SLO during the time it was constructed by the County. He was later the engineer…what else?


Gruber needs to go. Takes pay raises but fails to do his job and the end result is the people of Cambria get the shaft.

Rich in MB

What a second….

So the Director gets a Huge Pay Raise and then we find out he’s not even doing his Job?

Folks…it’s time to wake up and put a stop to this Failed Government Mindset that you have to be special and better than the average WalMart Employee to work for the Government and thus demand high pay, benefits, and bonuses! I would rather have the register staff of a WalMart run my Special District…how much worse could bit be?


Actually, it’s not the fault of Government or CSD’s that Cambria’s leadership is failing the people. It’s the fault of the Cambria CSD members and special interests who did not perform adequate planning for measuring and managing their water supply issues (or non-issues). There are consequences for that, sooner or later. Without adequate oversight, internal or external to the organization, a culture of malfeasance will be free to take over… Greed will find a way (see Wells Fargo or Volkswagen in recent news). This type of thing happens all the time in the private sector, too.

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