The Cambrian

CCSD awaits answer on brine disposal

Cambria’s services district is waiting to hear from a state water agency about how the district will be allowed to reduce the amount of briny liquid in a holding pond on San Simeon Creek Road.

The Cambria Community Services District has been in regular communication with the state’s Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB) ever since a Feb. 1 meeting between representatives of the agencies.

However, on Feb. 9, the water board slapped the district with three notices of violation related to the operation of the pond (also called an impoundment basin) and the district’s history of being late in filing mandatory reports and being lax in its communications with the water agency.

The large holding pond on the district’s San Simeon Creek Road property retains brine residuals from water-reclamation processes at the CSD’s Sustainable Water Facility, which treats and filters a mix of treated wastewater, fresh water and sea water drawn from underground.

The district’s permit to operate the plant’s pond lists a maximum level that the brine can reach, to avoid having the liquid overflow onto surrounding ground and into the adjacent San Simeon Creek. Since a series of heavy downpours in January and February, floodwater from a neighboring property flooded the area around the pond a couple of times. Some flooding flowed into the pond, which also is not allowed. In those instances and since, the amount of brine and water in the pond has exceeded the mandated maximum level.

CSD staff filed a formal response to the violation notices March 1, right on time, according to Jerry Gruber, the district’s general manager. The district also has filed all other required reports on time, he said.

“When we responded to the RWQCB we outlined three options” for brine removal, he said in a March 7 email interview. “Our preferred alternative would be to truck the water from the impoundment basin to the wastewater-treatment plant. Our primary focus at this point in time is to lower the pond to the appropriate level as outlined within our Title 27 permit. Once we have achieved that limit, we will continue to let evaporation continue to lower the pond. We are waiting to hear back from the RWQCB on the alternative that they approve.”

Other options offered in the reply were: reversing the flow of CCSD effluent from the wastewater treatment plant to the San Simeon Creek Road property; and pumping the excess water into a sanitary sewer system for the neighboring state park campground.

RWQCB wouldn’t allow the district to use another option, putting the brine and water into a nearby, empty percolation pond, because levels of boron in the brine were too high.

Gruber said in one of his regular emailed reports to water board staff that the district believes the current boron concentration (4.0 mg/l versus the basin’s limit of 0.75 mg/l) is “were derived from a solution used to preserve our R.O. (reverse osmosis) membranes.”