Wastewater conundrum sparking west county controversy
Written by Marc Albert
SonomaWater crews installing sewer lines at Larkfield Estate, elsewhere in the county photo credit: (Credit: SonomaWater)
Neighbors are suing to block a sewage transfer station north of Sebastopol, arguing Sonoma Water and other agencies swept environmental concerns under the rug.
Currently, sewage from the small west county town of Occidental is trucked 18 miles to a treatment plant near Santa Rosa Airport. That's since the state water regulators in 1997 gave Occidental's sanitary district 20 years to stop dumping treated waste into Dutch Bill Creek. Lacking funds to upgrade for proper treatment, sewage began being transported to the airport three years ago.
A plan in the works would cut the trucking distance by more than half. "The transfer station is proposed as a short term solution," said Barry Dugan with SonomaWater. Instead, Wastewater would be pumped into a sewer line at highway 116 and Green Valley Road.
Environmental reports have been completed, and according to Jose Ortiz, general manager of the Graton Community Services District, his organization and Occidental counterparts are negotiating with Sonoma Water over finances. Ortiz says the project has been discussed for a quarter century.
Neighbors, however oppose the concept, predicting disturbing noises and odors.
According to Ortiz, the tiny Occidental district, which already charges the highest rates in the county, can't raise the funds needed to add tertiary treatment. That's the standard for releasing treated water into a stream, river or creek. Without an acceptable plant, Occidental has few options.
As a legal battle looms, another alternative is in play "The other solution that's being discussed right now, and there's currently a feasibility study being conducted, is to build a small pipeline, and when we say small, we mean a four inch line, that would take the waste, and transport it directly to the Graton treatment plant," Dugan said.
While there's no money for that now, officials are holding out hope that a complete and approved proposal could get fast-tracked should the US congress approve the infrastructure bill currently under consideration.
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