Cambria’s services district will have to remove all wastes from the brine pond on its property near San Simeon Creek. And it needs to submit a plan for doing so within 30 days.
That’s the finding of a cease-and-desist order adopted last week by the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board.
“The cease and desist order (CDO) adopted by the Regional Water Board last week requires the removal of all wastes from the surface impoundment,” Jon Rokke, water resources control engineer for the board, wrote in response to emailed questions Tuesday, July 18.
At a hearing on the matter July 13 in Watsonville, the board required the Cambria Community Services District to devise a plan to clear out contaminated water from the pond. Originally designed as an evaporation pond, it is to be repurposed as a potable water storage basin.
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Heavy winter rains pushed water levels in the pond above permitted levels and flooded the nearby landscape. Gruber told the CCSD board May 25 that the water level had been falling and the district had been “getting good results from evaporation,” but Rokke said at the July 13 hearing that waiting for the water to evaporate is not an option.
The CCSD did not oppose the cease-and-desist order and agreed to pay $53,596 in fines to the water board. It could have been on the hook for nearly $600,000 in penalties.
Rokke warned that more fines could be levied if the CCSD fails to comply with the cease-and-desist order.
“If Cambria CSD fails to submit a workplan within 30 days of the adoption of the CDO, including milestones and timelines for removing the wastes at the earliest possible date, per the order, the Water Board may pursue further enforcement action,” he wrote in his email. “Failure to comply with the cease and desist order may result in administrative civil liability of up to $5,000 per violation per day pursuant to Water Code section 13350.”
Rokke said no further hearings are scheduled on the matter.
The order reads that CCSD has two options: It can “rehabilitate the Impoundment before recommencing waste storage options,” or it can “discontinue use of the impoundment for waste storage.”
Jerry Gruber, CCSD general manager, said the district intends to comply with the order: “We plan on having a detailed Closure Plan to the RWQCB within 30 days of the Cease and Desist Order,” he wrote in an emailed response to questions from The Cambrian on Tuesday.
Christine Heinrichs, who attended the meeting, said 18 people — most of them from Cambria — were on hand at the RWQCB hearing.
Ted Key presented a petition with almost 200 signatures, she said.
Heinrichs gave what she described as “a variety of reasons for the board to pursue compliance.”
“Unknown chemicals used in proprietary formulations may be among contaminants in the water, in addition to the boron, selenium and arsenic that are known contaminants,” Heinrichs said. “The pond continues to be an attractive nuisance for wildlife. Birds are often seen on the pond. The potential for groundwater contamination makes it a hazard to the watershed.”
The CCSD plans to consider the Environmental Impact Report on the plant at its meeting July 27, as required in its application for a Regular Coastal Development Permit.
The board had originally planned to vote on approving the EIR at a meeting in mid-June, but members postponed action indefinitely after the district’s lawyer said information on the project’s Adaptive Management Plan had only been posted online the day before.
The EIR, prepared by Michael Baker International, focused on seven environmental issues: aesthetics, air quality, biological resources, cultural resources, hydrology/water quality, land use and noise.