Cambria desalination plant facing closure

April 17, 2017

Desalination plant’s evaporation pond at almost 7 feet which is out of compliance with the 6 foot maximum level. Photo taken by Tina Dickason.


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

The state of California is working to close down the Cambria Community Services District $13 million desalination plant because district staffers have failed to comply with environmental requirements. In addition, the district is facing almost $800,000 in fines.

On Feb. 9, the water board slapped Cambria with three notices of violation. At that time, the district was facing almost $600,000 in fines because district staff has chronically filed late reports and failed to comply with water quality regulations, according to the Feb. 9 complaint.

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

Nevertheless, the district failed to follow the water board’s requirement. As a result, water board staff is preparing a cease and desist order for the evaporation pond and a civil liability complaint, according to an April 13 letter. Without the pond, the desalination plant cannot operate.

In its letter, the water board included a list of 162 newly discovered violations regarding the district’s failure to comply with state clean water requirements.


Reply to CCSD Responses_final by CalCoastNews on Scribd

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Let’s give them a raise!

Gruber just got one, but yes another one is likely on the way

More fines? Is this how our state is going to pay for it’s self from now on? Why not help Cambria to comply instead. California is a desert from sea to the Nevada border. Forcing the closure of a desal plant is short sighted. I guess California state and local agency’s are going to cannibalize themselves to death.

What a shame!

Loosing a valuable water asset is ethically criminal! Cambria has been short of water for as long as I can remember, so this is a real blow to all the residents who need that water for basic day to day use.

Some environmental leeway (lots of leeway) should be given to avoid losing an important facility such as this one. The CSD needs to get on the ball and make the improvements needed to bring the desal plant back into compliance. Not to do so is malfeasance on the part of the Board.

The current desal project is definitely NOT a “valuable asset” to the community of Cambria.. It is highly damaging to the environment, It is also totally out of compliance with water quality regulations. If you do not believe in those, I invite you to move to some third world country that has none. Of all the options for an increased water supply, it is the most expensive, most damaging and most likely to fail and the one that met with universal disapproval from regulators and experts not in line to profit from the the expense of Cambrian rate payers..

A pretty good case could be made that it was forced thru in order to establish a precedence for allowing desal : within a Marine Sanctuary, within an environmentally delicate area, directly adjacent to a State camp ground, within a floodplain, etc. Any one of those reasons should have disqualified the site. But now it can be used as an example all over the state.

Members of the Board of the CCSD were warned by every agency that it could not comply environmentally. They all suggested off stream storage, which would have been environmentally positive and far cheaper. The board was also informed that the plant, as proposed, would NOT WORK. Yet they forced it thru as though it were an heroic effort for which they should be rewarded with our gratitude.

For starters, we needed to have our sewer system upgraded before it would even comply with the input requirements of this POS plant. Since the building of it has pretty much bankrupted us, not likely to happen. our delivery system is also antiquated and leaking a substantial percentage of our supply. Not to mention how prohibitively expensive said project would be to run, with several highly paid “experts” necessary to operate it and the disposal of the waste by- products exceptionally expensive to dispose of. The construction costs are over 13 million already and actual compliance could cost us 8 million. A town of 6,000, many of us on fixed incomes, can hardly support such grandeur. If it actually worked and didn’t destroy what we have left of a water supply.

What we do have is member of the Board who was a partner in a large law firm that specializes in overriding environmental protections for development purposes. Establishing such a precedent at the expense of the rate payers of Cambria would certainly help accomplish that goal. It would definitely be a “valuable asset” for them.

Why isn’t the Grand Jury looking into the Cambria CSD? It’s clear Gruber and the engineers don’t have a clue. The hubris of the CCSD Board continues to astound. It obviously approves of how Gruber is managing the district or they would have fired him after the first bunch of NOVs came out that hit the community with $600,000 in fines. Now we are up to $800,000? Why hasn’t there been a petition to remove the old guard on the Board? What kind of contract did the Board sign with the contractor? Who negotiated it? Was it reveiwed and approved by the CCSD attorney? How come the ratepayers rather than the contractor is responsible for fixing the problems in the design and construction of the facility? What is to become of the brine pond that is leaking toxic waste? What is happening with the useless deteriorating snow blowers the CCSD bought? How much did they cost? What will happen with all the equipment now that the Water Board is filing a cease and desist order? What about all those specialists that have been hired to run the plant? Why wasn’t the $4 million grant used to pay down the loan for the water plant like the Board said it would be? What will happen if Cambria defaults on the loan? Lots of questions but never answers from the Board. Will their hubris be their downfall?

Why waste time with our Grand Jury, it has no real power and elected most officials, boards, districts, and such ignore the jury’s findings anyway. Until we change that why involve the grand Jury?