Cambrian: Opinion

Will contractor be accountable for water plant’s design flaws?

I am concerned and dismayed about the lack of accountability of both the CCSD administration and board of directors for what many of us see as irresponsible, even reckless, actions and decisions.

Among my concerns is the lack of attention and resources directed to our aging infrastructure — and without a well-functioning infrastructure, the water supply source is worthless. There have been, and are, numerous significant leaks, visible and invisible, throughout our community. And we still need adequate storage of the water that is produced.

When the Cambria Community Services District decided to purchase what was then called the “Emergency Water System,” many of us were opposed to the decision and skeptical of the information provided to us as to its necessity, efficacy and affordability.

Much less expensive temporary mobile emergency systems were available, and suggested.

Instead, with no public vote, this village of 6,000 residents was put in hock for millions of dollars for a permanent, expensive and dysfunctional plant railroaded through without proper permitting. This expense has siphoned off essential resources needed to repair and replace the community’s decaying and obsolete infrastructure.

Neither the CCSD, nor the facility contractor — CDM Smith, has been held accountable for this debacle and its numerous design flaws. Without the evaporation pond, how is the CCSD going to dispose of the waste and byproducts — and how much will this cost the community? Again, is CDM Smith going to be held accountable — and if not, why?

Not only can this small community not afford the debt we have already incurred, the system itself is financially unsustainable on a permanent basis. On top of this, the CCSD is purchasing the former library, and who knows how much that will finally cost: It is said that it may be over $1 million for the purchase and renovation.

Overall, the CCSD board and administration have not been transparent or forthright:

▪  They exaggerated our lack of water supply during the drought.

▪  They used the community’s financial resources to hire consultants, lobbyists and information/publicity officers to sell a flawed plan.

▪  They used bait-and-switch tactics: After assuring the community that the costly reverse osmosis/desal system was for emergencies only, calling it the “Emergency Water System,” they changed its name to the “Sustainable Water Facility” and dedicated it to growth.

▪  As no surprise, with the exception of Director Harry Farmer, they now they push for growth and say that they have to issue new water permits in order to finance this debacle they got us into.

▪  Despite the cost and lack of proper permitting, the exorbitant system has yet to provide an appreciable amount of water without serious glitches.

▪  During our so-called water emergency, and with our debt, the board gave away hundreds of gallons of our well water for free (often, to those who brought huge tanks down to the fairgrounds to fill and who supplied the water, for their own profit, to landscape customers). They also permitted individuals to wash their vehicles with potable water as well as lifted penalties for excessive use of water.

▪  They have sustained substantial fines, and continue to do so, for lack of compliance with monitoring and reporting programs — not filing requested information in a timely manner. Yet they have recommended — and granted — salary and benefit increases to the very administrators responsible for our debt and fines — who have indebted our community.

All this indicates an incompetent, if not irresponsible, CCSD board and administration.

We need some independent, impartial agency, on behalf of the community, to investigate and oversee these matters.

Donald Archer is an artist and has been a Cambria resident since 1992.