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We Really Can't Say Too Much About This!

We distributed over 600,00 of the flyers through newspapers in the San Francisco/Sacramento Bay-Delta area

Dec 03, 2010


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Board of Directors

Denis Prosperi
Chester Andrew
Bob Smittcamp
Russ Waymire
John "Dusty" Giacone
Joe Marchini
Mark Watte
Kole Upton
Piedad Ayala
Tom Barcellos
Jim Walls

We Really Can't Say Too Much About This!
It's not very often that the permit process for a sewage treatment plant gets our attention, but this is a big one.  In the article below we've highlighted the phrase "The Great Delta Toilet Bowl" which is mentioned as a public relations campaign to bring attention to flushing sewage into the Delta.  "The Great Delta Toilet Bowl" is a campaign put together by Families Protecting the Valley.  We distributed over 600,00 of the flyers through newspapers in the San Francisco/Sacramento Bay-Delta area to get people's attention about what we consider to be the biggest problem in the Delta.  The campaign has succeeded in getting a lot of attention and there's a hearing next Thursday(Dec. 9) in Rancho Cardova to consider forcing Sacramento to do a better job of treating their sewage.  We also sent 25,000 of the flyers to lawmakers, decision-makers and policy-makers in Washington D.C. to let them know of our concern.  Sacramento, of course, is fighting back and pointing the finger at the pumps as the blame for the Delta's decline. 

You can read the article to get the details of the hearing, but there is one more thing we'd like to point out about all this.  There's a second article below in which the Sacramento Sanitation District states it's in favor of rules that would allow one in one hundred people recreating in the Sacramento River to get sick from the pathogens.  I don't know about you, but we don't think this is an acceptable level.  Families Protecting the Valley will be at the hearing and along with some other water groups will hold a news conference to let the media know of our concerns.  Thanks for all your help in supporting FPV. 

Regulators set to address Delta's biggest sewer plant

State regulators are about to consider forcing Sacramento to do a better job of cleaning up what it flushes into one of California's most endangered ecosystems and important drinking water sources, the Delta.

Among the requirements under consideration are high-tech filters, biological systems to remove ammonia and other upgrades.

The Sacramento Regional County Sanitation District, which says the improvements will cost $2 billion, contends it should not have to spend so much for what it says are questionable benefits. The bigger problem, it says, is the amount of water pumped out of the Delta.

But scientists, environmentalists and big water agencies that have seen their supplies shrivel as the Delta's environmental problems have grown are urging regulators to require better treatment at the Delta's largest sewer system.

"For the ecosystem to be fixed, it's got to be more than focusing on flows and pumping," said Laura King Moon, assistant general manager for State Water Contractors, an association of water agencies that rely on Delta pumps.

"We're the only ones that are bearing the burdens of fixing the ecosystem," she said.

Sacramento's ammonium discharges are reducing the amount of small food organisms from the Sacramento River to Suisun Bay, scientists say.

Sixty percent of the municipal wastewater dumped into the Delta comes from the Sacramento plant, which is the only major sewage treatment plant in the Delta that has not installed or is not installing an advanced sewage treatment system. The exceptions include a much smaller plant in Discovery Bay and one of two plants in Rio Vista.

Sacramento is the source of nearly all of the ammonia in the Delta, regulators say.

In the past, regulators figured that so much fresh water flows down the Sacramento California's largest river that it would dilute the sewage discharges.

But the Delta's ecosystem is in severe decline and researchers are increasingly pointing at ammonia and its chemical sister, ammonium, as culprits that may be reducing the amount of food for fish.

"There has been a lot of research in the last few years on ammonia," said Ken Landau, assistant executive officer for the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board, which is writing the sewage treatment plant's new permit. "It is not killing the big fish but it is inhibiting the growth of algae and part of the food chain."

A draft permit would require the agency to install filters to reduce giardia and cryptosporidium, protozoans that can cause intestinal illnesses, and cut ammonia discharges from 14 tons a day to 1 ton a day.

Sacramento officials say they will have to replace chlorine-based disinfection with ultraviolet treatments to meet the conditions in the new permit.

The district's top manager said the improvement costs would boost the average residential sewer bill from about $40 per month to $80.

"We simply don't think it's a reasonable balance," said Stan Dean, district engineer for the sewer agency. "The gains in the water quality and the Delta ecosystem are largely speculative."
"Admittedly it's a judgment," Dean added. "If you are not a ratepayer, you're certainly entitled to a different opinion. "... If money is no object, we should do everything. But, unfortunately, we don't have infinite money in our society."

For big water agencies around the state, the desire to see Sacramento better treat its wastewater comes from the hope that it will improve environmental conditions in the Delta enough to ease restrictions on water allocations.

The sewer plant has long been a concern for the Contra Costa Water District because of its effect on the water it supplies to some 550,000 Contra Costa residents.

Three years ago, the Concord-based district won a lawsuit now being appealed in which it said the Sacramento district did not adequately consider how Sacramento's expansion plans would affect water quality around Contra Costa and other water intakes.

The other water districts often repeat the mantra that they are not to blame for the environmental problems that led to new restrictions on their ability to pump Delta water.
Look at the "other stressors," they say, pointing to invader fish species, the diminished food supply for fish and unregulated water withdrawals.
But Sacramento's treated sewage discharge tops their lists.

There is even a public-relations campaign called, "The Great Delta Toilet Bowl" to call attention to flushing into the Delta.
Sacramento officials responded with their own public relations drive, even commissioning a report early this year to demonstrate just how many fish the Delta pumps kill.
Scientists say the correct answer is "C," all of the above.

"Science supports the concept that there are multiple stressors affecting the Delta ecosystem but science also shows that the current nutrient loading (especially total ammonia) may be one of the most important of those stressors," wrote Cliff Dahm, lead scientist for the state's Delta science program.

The issues will come out at a hearing Dec. 9 at 11020 Sun Center Drive, Suite 200 in Rancho Cordova.

As of late Tuesday, the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board's governing board lacked a quorum due to vacancies. A spokesman for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Matt Connelly, said the governor's office had a goal of maintaining a quorum on all state panels but he could not say when appointments might be made.

Landau, the regional board's assistant executive officer, said that the hearing would take place in any case and if the board lacks a quorum the board members who are there would make a recommendation for the board to vote on once it has a sufficient number of members.
If a quorum is present, the board could approve or reject the draft permit, or modify it.

Sacramento regional sanitation district ups ante in sewage treatment fight


A letter hitting most residential mailboxes in the capital region this week offers startling information: It soon may cost three times more to flush your toilet.
That is, if you agree with the numbers.

The letter was sent by the Sacramento Regional County Sanitation District, which treats sewage flushed by 1.3 million people in the capital metro area and discharges it into the Sacramento River.

That effluent could be subject to strict new pollution limits under a new state permit to be discussed at a hearing Dec. 9 in Rancho Cordova.

The goal is to protect public health and aquatic habitat in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta from pollutants, including ammonia, giardia, chlorpyrifos and cyanide.
You won't learn any of that from the mailer, however. It merely warns people their sewer bills could jump from $20 to $61.50 per month, and suggests they attend the meeting to comment.
The numbers are based on a district estimate that complying could cost $2 billion.

"We need to get as many people riled up about this as we possibly can," Kerri Howell, a Folsom City Council member and chairwoman of the sanitation district, said when the mailer was approved Nov. 10.

The approach seems to be having that effect on some recipients.
"Looking at a potential $41.50-a-month rate increase is pretty ugly," said Steven Picco, a Rancho Cordova resident who got the mailer Tuesday. "That could be a problem for a lot of people."

But actual compliance costs remain highly uncertain, a fact not disclosed in the mailer, which has become the latest grenade in an unusually heated war between governments.
On one side, the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board, a state agency, is proposing the new wastewater permit terms. The board is charged with enforcing the federal Clean Water Act.

On the other side stands the Sacramento Regional County Sanitation District, the local agency that will be bound by the permit. It is led by city and county elected officials throughout the region.
The district must obtain a new Clean Water Act permit from the state board every five years. Its last permit was issued in 2000, and the district has operated under an extension for the past five years as the complex new permit was drafted.

The district disagrees with many terms of the draft permit, and has charged the state board with exceeding its authority.
"There's still a lot of folks that don't know about the issues," said district spokeswoman Claudia Goss. "We think it's a responsibility we have to tell our ratepayers about not only the hearing, but also what's to come when there's a possible $2 billion hit to the region's pocketbook."

The mailer was sent to about 400,000 households and cost about $172,000, according to a staff report.
Goss said there wasn't room to explain the district's cost estimates or why the regulations are proposed at all – omissions that irritate the state water board.
"We do not particularly agree with the magnitude of the costs," said Ken Landau, assistant executive officer of the regional water board. "And they have totally left off the benefit to public health and the environment that we are trying to address."

One of many pollutants in dispute is ammonia, a normal byproduct of human urine and feces that is not removed by Sacramento's wastewater treatment process. Sacramento is the largest source of ammonia in the Delta, where it is suspected of altering the food chain and killing fish.

Removing ammonia would require upgrading to so-called "tertiary" treatment, an expensive step.
The district agrees its ammonia volume should be cut in half, but says this can be done without a tertiary system.
It also wants to avoid complete removal of infectious giardia and cryptosporidium, which may require filtration.

The water board says the district favors rules that could allow one in 100 people recreating in the Sacramento River to get sick from these pathogens.
The district's $2 billion cost is a so-called "Class 5" estimate. This engineering term signals great uncertainty and indicates that actual costs could vary from half that amount to twice as much.

The regional board hired its own consultant to review potential costs. The firm, PG Environmental of Virginia, suggested different methods could satisfy the rules for $1.3 billion.
It also reviewed rates in other cities that have met similar permit terms, and many have done so at rates well below $60 a month, including Roseville, Tracy and Lodi.

The district stands by its estimate, saying unique site conditions and current operations limit the options.
"The ones that our cost estimates are based on, these are technologies that have a high probability of working," said Prabhakar Somavarapu, director of policy and planning. "You have to kind of tailor it for the water that you have."

The Dec. 9 meeting begins at 8:30 a.m. at 11020 Sun Center Dr. No. 200, Rancho Cordova.


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