Water board drops enforcement action against 38 Los Osos homes

A randomly selected group of 38 Los Osos households under mandatory orders to hook up to the new sewer system is no longer under an enforcement action from a local water board because they will be connecting along with the rest of the community.

At its Sept. 25 meeting, the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board removed the septic system enforcement orders that were placed on the group in 2006 and 2007.

The orders required the homeowners to hook up to the new sewer when it became available, as well as have their existing septic systems inspected and pumped every three years in the interim. No fines were attached to the enforcement orders.

But because the new sewer is under county control — a project it took over as the Los Osos Community Services District was fined $6.6 million by the board for failing to build a new system — the county will enforce a requirement for all residents in the jurisdiction to abandon their septic tanks and hook up to the wastewater facility when it becomes available in 2016.

The county has completed the process of installing sewage pipelines, and is in the process of constructing a wastewater treatment plant in Los Osos.

The county passed an ordinance that requires residents to pay the estimated $5,000 to $10,000 to install lateral pipes to connect the new system to their homes.

“Today is a new day,” water board chair Jean-Pierre Wolff said in a statement. “The enforcement orders served their purpose, and there is no longer any reason to unfairly single out a few residents for enforcement action.”

The county randomly selected the 38 households from a county assessor’s list of residents in the prohibition area of septic tank discharge. The zone was established by the water board in response to the presence of nitrates in the surrounding environment, which it attributed to the concentration of septic tanks.

Harvey Packard, the board’s supervising engineer, said that initially 50 households were going to be levied with enforcement orders as part of an initial wave to force compliance with the prohibition.

Some of the 38 homeowners had sued the CCRWC over the board’s directive, but lost the case, as well as an appeal, and the orders remained in place until last week.