Cambria facing almost $600,000 in fines

February 12, 2017
Cambria General Manager Jerry Gruber

Cambria General Manager Jerry Gruber

By KAREN VELIE

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


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copperhead

Sounds like the members of the Cambria Community Services District deserve a raise.


That’s how government works, right?


InaFog

Cambrians, more good news! Guess what is also in your general manager’s recently approved contract? I mean besides the 11% increase in salary, the increase in car allowance (to pay him to drive to work when he chooses to), telephone allowance increase, pension, etc., etc.? Well, he also gets a 9 month severance pay, even if he is FIRED for incompetence! Yup, your board of directors, with the exception of Harry Farmer, all voted for Jerry’s sweet contract. Happy yet? Ready to drain the swamp?


Recall

I think he can be relieved for cause. Check out his employment agreement on the CCSD website, agenda #9B on the June 23, 2016, agenda. Let’s hope so anyway.


only-when-i-do-this

Oh, is this over-priced Californian Slug we’ve been hearing all about in Cahm-Brya ?


Amicus

Guess it’s time for Gruber to yell at everyone else, again. Amazing incompetence. In over his head. Geez, it’s a town of only six thousand people and a handful of wells. That ain’t rocket science. Are they doing this deliberately in order to poison the wells and thus force a giant emergency desal plant?


SK FIGLER

Valerie (Bentz) and I haven’t lived in Cambria for a few years, but things haven’t changed regarding the incompetence and self-serving attitude of the CCSD upper staff. And they still insist on denigrating concerned citizens such as Tina Dickason and others who work to make Cambria a great and livable town (Mary and Jim Webb, Patty Fox, etc.). Apparently, Mr. Gruber’s sole defense is to berate Ms. Dickason for alerting the rightful regulatory bodies to his and the staff’s failings. His message seems to be, “Just shut up about it, darn you.”

Let me point out that, while the Carpinteria leaders are not perfect, we at least live in a town in which they pay attention to citizens’ concerns, knowledge, and insights. So, it can be better.


the needle

Once more the ccsd proves why we would all be better off with no ccsd-We are paying an absolute incompetent a quartermillion dollars plus for what should be a non existent position and it leads to 600k fines and him insulting those that pay this boob.TERMINATE INSTANTER


Pelican1

Show me a sustainable CSD that has proven itself to be a benefit to a community.

CSD’s should be renamed WFA’s (waste, fraud, and abuser’s)


Amicus

plenty cities do the same… look at San Diego. it’s the people, bro’. many of whom work all over this state doing their dirty work.


Pelican1

San Diego is a CITY….not a CSD! Do some research “Bro”


InaFog

Missed the Sanders statement. What did he say? If you google him, “water” is listed under practices. What doeds that mean? Under ” representative work” it looks like he is involved in getting a lot of real estate developments through.


pensatore

Google Greg Sanders attorney orange county. His specialities, which include real estate and land use entitlements, are listed. Hmmmm, do you think Cambria really needs a wasteful water system to generate water for locals? No, it is needed so the majority CSD members can hand out will serve letters like candy to developers of land. Too bad Sanders’ clients are not publicly identified but lawyers have that special privilege of not having to identify clients due to attorney client privilege.


It is doubtful Gruber would be making the statements and doing the things he is doing unless provided direction by a majority of the board. He has done such a wonderful job at implementing their direction that they gave him a pay raise. Gruber is taking the heat for those behind the curtain. Well done Sanders and company.


Amicus

lots of reverse-engineering that forces growth. totally criminal.


pensatore

Why was the statement about Sanders taken down by CalCoastNews? Sanders is a public official. He is on the CCSD. He is associated with a large Orange County law firm. The law firm represents developers. Sanders’ profile identifies him as specializing in land use development entitlement.


The ratepayers of Cambria will have to pay for this disaster. Why doesn’t Sanders work with him development interest to pay for this mess instead of ratepayers.


Why take the truth down?


Look behind the curtain and see who is instructing Gruber on what to do and say.


InaFog

Well, Cambrians, get out your wallets. The bumbling general manager, who is in a serious bromance with the CCSD Board majority, has put the community at serious financial risk again. But, hey, it’s only $600,000 this time. Good grief, you just rewarded this incompetent a friggin’ raise! Time to clean house-get rid of Gruber and that $10,000 a month useless lobbyist and demand some transparency! Why is the community only now hearing that Jerry Gruber has failed to file monthly reports on time since January, 2015? Obviously he is in over his head and is not the genious he and the board majority makes him out to be. What else is going on that we don’t know about? We can’t afford such incompetence. Drain the swamp.