The Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board has fined the South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District $9,000 for violations over a nearly two-year period, which included too much fecal matter and chlorine in the water that the Oceano Wastewater Treatment Plant discharged into the ocean.
The three violations — two “serious” and one “non-serious” — occurred between July 2015 and May 2017.
According to the control board, the district violated policy on the amount of suspended solids in its discharged water in July 2015. The average monthly limit for suspended solids (or large particles in the water that can carry pollutants or pathogens) is 40 milligrams per liter; that month, the district recorded 57 milligrams per liter. This counted as a serious violation, according to the control board.
The violation was due to a rupture in a main influent pipe, according to the control board’s report. The pipe was later fixed.
In the second half of 2015, the plant violated minor water quality limits five times in a six-month period — which counts as a “non-serious” violation, according to the control board.
One reading in December recorded fecal coliform — bacteria from the feces of warm-blooded animals — at 5,400 MPN per 100 milliliter, more than twice the limit of 2,000 per 100 milliliter.
The final violation occurred in May 2017 when the district recorded chlorine levels in its discharged water at 32 milligrams per liter, about 221 percent higher than the limit of 9.96 milligrams per liter.
The district has since monitored the chlorine system to ensure the problem is not repeated, according to the violation report.
Each violation comes with a $3,000 fine.
At its meeting Wednesday night, the sanitation district decided to not fight the violations and pay the fees.
“Hopefully, the district admits that we did have this series of violations, two major and five minor within that six-month, 180-day period, and I strongly support that staff recommendation that we make the settlement as recommended by staff,” Arroyo Grande Mayor and District Director Jim Hill said Wednesday night.
This isn’t the first time the South County district, which provides wastewater processing for Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach and Oceano, has been fined by the control board.
In 2013, it filed a civil lawsuit against the district in San Luis Obispo Superior Court over a 2010 spill that leaked more than 3 million gallons of raw sewage from the South County wastewater treatment plant into an Oceano neighborhood.
The district ended up settling that lawsuit in 2016, agreeing to pay $1.1 million, with half going to the control board and the other half going to fund three environmental projects.