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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Talks Might Lead to End of Septic Ban Woes

• Accord Possible on Civic Center Wastewater Plan Design

BY BILL KOENEKER


Discussions between city staff and the staff of the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board over the past two months now seem to offer a glimmer of hope that potential lengthy and costly litigation may be avoided and a final design plan agreed upon, according to City Manager Jim Thorsen.
Just several months ago in a previous report by Thorsen, the talks were characterized as stalled with the board unwilling to bend in any direction.
However, Thorsen, in his most recent staff report, which the city council is scheduled to talk about next week at its meeting, held out hope that things were changing.
“At this time, staff believes that there has been progress in our discussions with the RWQCB on the Phase 1 and deep well injection dispersal plan. It is understood that we still need to concur on the ultimate phasing of the entire prohibition area before we can fully complete any of the final plans and [Environmental Impact Report],” he wrote.
“However, a positive response to the RWQCB’s support of the Phase 1 and deep well injection plan and with the anticipation that the RWQCB and the city will be able to agree on an ultimate phasing plan of the entire prohibition area, city staff is recommending that the city council authorize: Staff and [the consultants] RMC Water and Environment to re-initiate efforts to design the central water treatment facility. [The] City attorney [is] to negotiate a six-month extension on the existing tolling agreement that is set to expire March 31, 2011,” the city manager added.
Thorsen said he and the RWQCB executive officer prepared a revised Phase 1 map that is a blend of the RWQCB original phasing plan and the city’s proposed plan.
“Those revisions were shown to other board members and a compromise appears to be supportable for that initial phase,” Thorsen noted.
The city manager insists that approval of a deep well injection system is required to discharge excess treated effluent when no more recycled water can be used. “The approval of this design concept is vital to the city being able to disperse the estimated volume of effluent from the treatment plant. It is believed that without the use of deep well injection, there is no physical solution within financial constraints to disperse the estimated flows. The city still intends to reuse effluent to the maximum extent practical, however, even with recycling, it is estimated that at least 50 percent of the flows will still need to be dispersed through deep injection,” he said.
It is anticipated that if the city receives a nod for the deep well injection disposal, Thorsen went on to say that given the money the city has already spent in the design process, a final resolution of the boundaries and phasing “will need to be reached within the next 60-90 days.”
The city manager maintains a quick resolution of the phasing and boundaries will enable the design team to complete its work in a timely manner without further changes or delays. “It is estimated that the prohibition issues have set back the design completion of a central wastewater facility approximately one year,” Thorsen asserted.
The regional board approved the prohibition last year and the state board upheld the septic ban. The adopted plan stipulates that all commercial properties must cease discharge by 2015. All residential properties must cease discharge by 2019. No new discharge is allowed from any property in the prohibition boundary. The city estimates the cost for a centralized wastewater treatment facility and associated infrastructure range from $30-$52 million depending on size, location and other factors.
Cost for the treatment plant is anticipated to be borne by the property owners through the formation of an assessment district, according to city officials.
The city immediately brought suit against the state agency but that litigation has been tolled by an agreement between both parties, while the regional board staff and city staff discuss the matter.
Initially, the board had shown little inclination toward compromise on what the city wanted to do for adjusting the phasing and boundaries of the prohibition.

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