As Cambrians pay toward the new emergency water supply project and are beginning to shoulder costs of dealing with the fire-prone state of the town’s Monterey pine forest, their services district also is facing the probable need to upgrade the wastewater treatment plant to meet state orders.
How elaborate that upgrade will be and how much it will cost ratepayers likely will depend to a great extent on requirements the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board puts on the Cambria Community Services District for the quality of water coming out of the plant (on Park Hill’s Heath Lane at Windsor Boulevard) and flowing into district effluent ponds and facilities on San Simeon Creek Road.
A draft document from the water board (“Total Maximum Daily Loads” or TMDL report) identifies CCSD’s effluent from the plant as a primary factor in higher-than-allowed levels of certain elements that can damage the habitat and the creatures that depend on it.
While the major players at an April 1 meeting in Cambria all stressed the need for collaboration and partnership in lowering those levels of nitrate, sodium and chloride, the situation could degenerate into a finger-pointing exercise between the district and State Parks, which has a dump station for RV holding tanks near the testing site.
Nobody from State Parks was at the meeting.
But in late February, Doug Barker, parks district manager for the region, said recent tests didn’t show any leaks there.
“We monitored and hired a third-party consultant to test the dump station,”âhe said. “To date, all the information indicates that the dump station is intact, does not leak and does not contribute to high nitrates in the lagoon.”
However, independent studies there are continuing, according to Howard Kolb of the water board, who led the April 1 meeting.
Among CCSD officials at the meeting were district General Manager Jerry Gruber, district engineer Bob Gresens, public information contractor Tom Gray and four of five board members, half of whom sat separately.
Gruber said April 6 that “we acknowledge that we’re contributing” to the elevated nitrate levels, but “we don’t want the district or community to bear the full burden and responsibility” for correcting the problems, because there are other variables that contribute to those levels.
Gruber and district engineer Bob Gresens are preparing responses to the water board’s report.
“It’s a process” that has just begun, Gruber said, indicating that he knows the aging plant needs to be updated.
Kolb stressed that when the district’s water-reclamation project (emergency water supply) is running, the filtering and treatment processes actually improve the quality of the water in the aquifer, because those processes remove nitrates and other elements from the water.
Kolb said most of the data on which the TMDL report is based on studies and testing done from 2001 to 2006, primarily at two monitoring points along the creek.