South County sewage treatment plant will rent dump truck to haul away biosolids

A day after state regulators issued a notice of violation against a South County sewage treatment plant, the three-member board overseeing the facility approved a temporary measure to address one of the problems.

The Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board issued a notice of violation Tuesday after regulators said they found “areas of vulnerability” at the South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District’s wastewater treatment facility in Oceano.

One of the problems mentioned in the report is the way biosolids — processed wastewater solids — are stored at the sewage plant. A report filed earlier this year by an inspector for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency noted the same issue.

On Wednesday, the sanitation district board unanimously voted to rent a dump truck at an estimated cost of $1,900 a month to collect and haul away the biosolids. District staff will then work on a permanent solution to put in place next year.

According to the water board and the EPA, the biosolids are stored in uncovered piles in an unpaved area next to the Arroyo Grande Creek levee, about 45 yards north of the creek itself, creating a potential for groundwater contamination.

Since October, the material has been hauled offsite weekly, but prior to that month the biosolids were removed only about twice a year, according to the notice of violation.John Wallace, administrator of the sanitation district and president of San Luis Obispo-based Wallace Group, said the inspector was not aware that some clay material had been applied several years ago to seal the area and prevent groundwater contamination.

Testing of the creek showed no contamination, he added.

The sewage treatment plant has been storing biosolids in that location since the mid-1980s. A plan to pave the area has been mentioned in a list of district projects for nearly five years, but the work has not been completed.

Wallace said “we haven’t forgotten about it” but that other necessary projects were completed first.

“No one told us before this that what we’d been doing for 25 years was wrong,” said board member Tony Ferrara, mayor of Arroyo Grande. “We’re going to fix the problem, now that we know it’s a problem.”