Press "Enter" to skip to content

Boonville Sewer/Water, Information to Consider

August 4, 2021, Anderson Valley Advertiser: The Boonville Waste Water Treatment Update written by a local Boonville real estate person states: “Of particular interest is how to educate folks so that they understand why a waste water (sic) treatment site is so important for the future of Boonville.” 

Another view for the folks to consider:

A Bit of History: Approximately four years ago Anderson Valley Community Service District (AVCSD) directors reached out to the state of California for financial assistance to design a municipal sewer/water project in Boonville. The result of that contact produced a multi-million dollar municipal plan designed to serve existing Boonville parcels with sewer and water services. 

After researching the available information, it was determined the forever municipal plan has the potential to inflict extreme catastrophic changes to Boonville properties; therefore, it is imperative issues be presented truthfully and accurately by AVCSD directors to ensure residents are able to reach a reasonable conclusion regarding this proposed project. 

The sewer/water project is funded through State Proposition 1 (general obligation bonds), the proposition was passed by voters years ago to assist low income populations; it continues today under predominantly similar guidelines. Among funding projects, the proposition is designed to provide grants for safe drinking water and sewer systems through the state's grant mechanism. 

State grant money under Proposition 1 (billions, not including federal grants) is exclusively available for low income property owners. The taxpayer-funded grant allows low income people to participate by calculating their income position and ability to make future user payments.

The project AVCSD is promoting cannot, and will not, move forward on water services alone. The state requires sewer and water be installed simultaneously, no options. 

One reason the AVCSD project has taken so long is due to Boonville property owners' hesitancy to sell their parcel or multiple parcels for state placement of historically unsafe, costly, invasive sewer containment buildings and percolation fields on their property.

AVCSD's municipal project proposal has nothing to do with new construction or changing occupancy limits in housing or business projects; the county is responsible for enforcing those mandates. Future growth under this plan is extremely limited (twenty-two additional residents) with no meaningful provision for any population increases. Parcels on the engineer's final Boonville map will be locked in place forever - the plan cannot be altered due to an increase in population beyond the limit of 10% = twenty-two residents. State funding, and layout will be based on existing parcels at the time the engineer's plan layout is finalized and accepted by the state for possible grant opportunities.

The sewer/water plan was initiated when two AVCSD directors on March 7, 2016, a little over five years ago, gathered water samples from yards and inside homes on Haehl Street in Boonville; they sent or delivered the samples to Alpha Labs in Ukiah. Alpha Labs officially notified Haehl Street homeowners regarding lab results; AVCSD received a copy of the notice on March 14, 2016. 

Immediately upon receipt of the lab results in 2016, AVCSD informed Boonville residents that “innocent children” on Haehl Street were in danger of E.coli contamination — the proof was in the testing, it was announced. It was alarming to say the least, most residents and property owners wanted to help; we were genuinely concerned about the safety of Boonville's children.

AVCSD prepared a draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) based on documented Haehl Street water samples taken March 2016, they also included an ancient Mendocino County Health Department survey letter dated March 27, 1974 (47 years ago) as proof of need for a municipal sewer/water development. 

To ascertain support or non-support (for or against the proposed municipal plan) each parcel owner in the affected area was notified and asked to officially comment (via postal service mail, Email, or in person) stating support or non-support by November 9, 2018 based on the draft EIR report. A town meeting was scheduled November 1, 2018 in the fairground's cafeteria to review the draft EIR and receive an overview of the project. A large number of concerned property owners attended. 

AVCSD reported they received a sizable response from parcel owners regarding their written request for support or non-support for the project. AVCSD stated they would officially report the results as soon as calculated. However, the result from the non-support vote due by November 9, 2018 was never publicly announced; only supportive Email or support parcel post letters were listed and made available.

On January 29, 2019 according to AVCSD minutes, a meeting was held with the directors and the Boonville Planners (a support group of local citizens, not all of whom are property owners in Boonville) in attendance, Also included were state sponsored engineers and State Water Board officials. When officially asked by the engineers if property owners in Boonville support the project all those attending the meeting gave resounding unanimous approval: cheers and hand clapping. No one expressed non-support at that meeting, according to the minutes. No official evidence of non-support was ever recorded or given to the state to our knowledge. One-sided information being presented in this manner is certainly questionable. Is it possible incomplete information was inappropriately relayed to the state by AVCSD? 

In spite of residents asking for support and non-support results, to this day no one knows if this project was supported or not supported by property owners in Boonville. AVCSD never released the tabulations and apparently never will. The municipal project is now underway despite questionable support or non-support results. Is it possible the state and county assumed all Boonville property owners overwhelmingly expressed support for the Boonville sewer/water municipal project when it was discussed at the meeting on January 29, 2019? 

It now has been more than five years since Alpha Labs originally contacted the Haehl Street property owners listed on the test addresses - it is entirely plausible some of the sewer/water problems have been diminished or taken care of by homeowners in the area. Recently, at one of the daytime AVCSD sewer/water meetings it was reported some residents of Boonville asked if AVCSD directors were considering new updated testing in the Haehl Street area due to the long, extended time frame (five years) since samples were originally taken. 

Also suggested was the possibility for new on-site testing overseen by independent witnesses. AVCSD responded the testing would cost at least a thousand dollars. The re-testing suggestion was rejected on the spot by a director because updated testing was ”...too costly”. 

Sometime later, after AVCSD was continually questioned about the project, AVCSD mailed an intimidating letter to the entire Anderson Valley population warning of imminent danger: residents could become sick or even die from alleged contamination in Boonville's water sources. The first notice of contamination and death threats referred to Haehl Street; the Crisis letter is the second “death threat” missive. Numerous unproven threats were listed. The ”Crisis in Boonville” communication was sent to and published by the Anderson Valley Advertiser. 

Many residents knew the crisis did not exist; it was considered spurious news; not many people took it seriously; the information was simply and totally not verifiable. Information touted in the letter was based on mitigated health issues over forty-five (45) years old. 

AVCSD included in their newspaper release several additional disgraceful personal attacks. The Crisis letter assailed community members who respectfully questioned the sewer/water proposal. The attack was inappropriate to put it mildly. It is estimated the mailing cost to send the Crisis letter to all Anderson Valley residents was ironically close to, or in excess of, a thousand dollars. 

Parcel owners who might be considering this project for their Boonville property should be aware of astronomical costs in meeting municipal requirements. The requirement to tie into the sewer/water project is infinite. The state requires all existing sewers and leach lines be removed from Boonville parcels, existing wells are to be capped off or filled in, laterals on personal property replaced, landscaping and trees removed if in way of sewer/water lines - at last check the mandatory removal of existing services is not covered by state grant funding. 

Fact: All new property purchasers in Boonville after the municipal project is in place “shall” pay the state $10,000.00 (TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS) to tie into the municipal lines. This is a state mandated charge! Removal of all existing water or sewer utilities is also mandatory should there be any found on the property at time of purchase. 

AVCSD continually avoids discussing this extremely important cost factor for later tie-ins; to this day the directors continue to evade discussing it openly; it was recently noted in the AV Advertiser on August 5, 2021, in an article written by the AVCSD spokesperson who stated “...likely have a cost involved.” TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS is the “likely cost” being referred to. This fee is an up-front payment to the state to tie into the lines, plus other likely costs not mentioned in the article regarding removal of existing wells, laterals, sewer and leach fields. The cost requirement to tie into the system will absolutely suppress new building or remodeling projects; this tie-in cost will greatly decrease future land values and land sales. 

If sewer/water is installed Boonville property owners will be required to install the large, noisy, sewer sludge grinder on each parcel, install electrical hookups from the grinder to buildings, install new water and sewer lines to buildings from the street. The electrical costs to install and operate the grinder will be added to parcel owner's monthly PG&E utility bill.

The state will install a very large, above-ground cement meter box measuring one foot above ground; two feet below ground, surface 20” long x 14” wide on each parcel adjacent to the municipal lines on the street. Feeder lines will be attached to the meter box from the street by the state. 

Earthquake insurance will be needed due to possible land displacement in the service area. In 1906 the activated earthquake faults in Boonville displaced land in and near Boonville. Had there been municipal sewer and water laterals installed in Boonville during that time period they would have split open to quickly flood the entire Boonville area as they most assuredly will when/if this current plan is in place.

Homeowner policies do not cover flooding, structure displacement, or earthquake damage, nor do they cover sewer mishaps in municipal sewer or water sites. These additional policies will be needed for full coverage, the enormous insurance cost will be borne by the parcel owner. All insurance costs will increase dramatically, not decrease as AVCSD and AVFD erroneously claim. 

The state walks away from Boonville the minute the sewer/water infrastructure goes on line. It is turned over to local property owners who will be required to administer the systems through a sewer/water board. The state has no liability if there is a disaster - FEMA might assist depending on politics more than need, but almost all costs are borne by parcel owners. Additional repair or replacement fees will be added to user monthly bills for ongoing upgrades, repairs or replacements. 

Administrative costs to establish and maintain the independent Boonville water/sewer company will consist of board members (five) all of whom shall be elected by Boonville parcel owners to oversee company duties - this is mandatory. The sewer/water overseeing board is defined as a company; it is not affiliated with or controlled by AVCSD. 

AVCSD was officially established April 21, 1970. AVCSD is legally defined as a quasi-corporation with Anderson Valley community members elected to four-year terms to serve as community “directors”. Decisions made by directors who have served longer terms might be legally challenged when voting on matters that greatly affect communities. This term limit edict allows full community participation - it encourages residents to serve the four year term and then step aside to allow new directors with differing opinions and views. Community participation was the focus and intent of the original statute when community service districts were originally established. 

The Anderson Valley Fire Department was legally defined as an independent corporation with full control over its own actions in 1995. 

On average monthly costs for users of new sewer/water plants is based on very low first-year monthly figures: $200+ ($130+ average for water/$70+ for sewer - note: sewer cost derived from AVCSD extremely low estimates) per month; costs run much higher for businesses. The large tanks for water storage require constant monitoring for damage or leaks. Storage tanks are checked daily for debris, vandalism, small animal damage, feces from rodents, and water tank ground settlement. Sewer leaks and containment structures are also monitored daily. The state grant does not cover any of these ongoing costs, sewer/water users pay for all services.

Rental rates in Boonville will absolutely increase to cover additional costs for insurance, maintenance, plus water and sewer distribution costs. Not only will the municipal plan increase property owners costs by thousands of dollars to provide utilities, it will cost renters as well who will be paying much higher monthly rental rates for new sewer/water utilities. The entire town will be impacted as renters and property owners have less disposable income for local spending due to the high cost of municipal services. 

Under the state municipal plan, a home owner in Boonville who does not occupy their home or business on a full-time basis must pay the user fee every month in spite of not using monthly water or sewer services. If the meter is installed on any Boonville property a substantial monthly fee will be billed to the parcel owner even if the services are not used. 

Allowing a derelict and dangerous fire-prone building to remain in Boonville on Highway 128/Haehl Street since 1995 is something AVCSD absolutely should step up and deal with without hesitation for all concerned. It is an obligation for AVCSD to solve this twenty-six year old problem at once and immediately consider Eminent Domain due to a very real threat to the town. It is obvious the owners of the property are waiting for the municipal plan to be implemented so they can finally sell the two parcels condemned by the state years ago due to their negligence. (November 16, 1993 violation of California Drinking Water Watch CA2300733.) On July 1, 1995 the facility was deactivated due to “...inactive Raw”. 

The owners, who reside in Mendocino City refused to remedy the threat to the town and surrounding area when they were cited in 1993. AVCSD needs to address this threat now - the current directors need to explain why twenty-eight years of negligence was allowed to continue. Every day that dangerous building remains in town the owners should, at the least be fined through legal recourse. AVCSD is surprisingly negligent regarding this dangerous situation in spite of it being a threat to the area, it is a dereliction of duty to ignore this threat to Boonville while devoting endless hours to a sewer/water system most Boonville residents do not need and cannot afford.

Why does AVCSD ignore the fire-prone property's threat to the town? 

May 15, 2013 AVCSD minutes, diesel contamination found in wells at or near the location of the AVCSD office and AVFire Department (AVFD) were individually discussed. In late 1950 Harry Presley closed and removed a gas service station where the AVCSD office and AVFD station are located today. Prior to AVCSD “owning” the building a neighbor dumped diesel in two nearby wells located very close to the fire station area. The wells (and soil) behind the current buildings were later tested, both were contaminated with liquid fuel. The spill spread; it could not be removed at that time because it had settled into a very large area. Many years later, Jeff's Service Station was closed due to contamination from a leaking gas tank. The area is volatile and needs immediate attention. 

AVCSD office and AVFD property plus others in this area are essentially worthless if this contamination is under the area or remains near these properties and cannot be removed; the AVCSD office area and the AVFD plus other parcels in the area should be tested, cleaned up if needed, or possibly abandoned if still contaminated beyond repair. Perhaps AVCSD and AVFD need to publicly discuss this issue again, find a remedy for the lingering problems other than a municipal sewer/water plan to be paid for by all Boonville residents most of whom have safe working sewers and clean water. AVCSD and AVFD are obligated to reassure the community through testing of their sites including others in the area, that the community is protected before any municipal plan is ever installed. 

The well sites the engineers designated on their maps will simply not be able to service Boonville should there be any new major building projects. The water table in Boonville is shallow in some areas, it is very fragile due to porous rock, clay, gravel, and soil in the aquifer. If this massive project is approved the whole water table system could destabilize; there is a very real danger the aquifer might blow out (refigure) if additional wells are added in the future. Blowing out is not an unusual phenomenon in clustered well areas. Nothing can restore the water table once it is destabilized. The water table in Boonville is precarious, highly fragile, and its wide width across the valley floor and shallow depth in areas across the aquifer (permeable rock formation) in Boonville and elsewhere in the valley, is of major concern.

In 1958 the North Coast Hydrological Region first tested Anderson Valley's basin and filed an initial report; that report was later reviewed in 1965 and again in 2004. The report outlined the fragile area due to water being dispersed to all sides of the valley floor. Any future building or additional tie-ins to the municipal system as presented today could possibly be a danger to the entire valley aquifer not only Boonville. In some parts of the water table testers found water only five feet deep near Boonville. The testing covered 4,970 acres in the whole Anderson Valley. The report stated groundwater was unconfirmed except for an unidentified localized area of “pressure” noted to be near Boonville. In other areas of Boonville the water table appeared to be shallow and unstable. 

Was the NCHR report reviewed by the engineers before offering to purchase wells in Meadow Estates where it is reported the area has a large deposit of iron; where 9 of 11 wells had very high iron concentrations in excess of US Public Health Services' limits? The wells in Meadow Estates appear to be designated by AVCSD and engineers as the primary water source; state engineers have offered some residents very substantial payments to sell their water rights to the state. 

Insurance costs will increase (not decrease) if this project is put in place. Each parcel owner should carry individual flood insurance because yes...these “buildings” do overflow in the winter during heavy rainfall, that is when the odor becomes overwhelming, the excess runoff water and sewage will definitely flood any area below the storage structure. (MBRs and other contraptions included.) it is wise to be prepared and be fully insured due to this ongoing threat.

Homeowner's insurance does not cover flooding or underground leaks in sewer and water projects. Water and sewer debris, including storage tank viruses will flood an area backing up into homes or businesses in a matter of minutes through manhole covers, fire hydrants, and service lines.

Hazardous viruses (COVID-19) and harmful bacteria were discovered in some Mendocino and Lake County municipal sewage storage area; the confined viruses pose a very real danger to municipal storage areas, plant employees, including the entire population using the services. 

Drinking water chemicals added to water from the plant will need filters in homes and businesses to alleviate chemical residue and taste. Safe, normal well water properties are stripped out, chemicals are added at the plant before distribution to homes and businesses. People with health issues will need to install osmosis filters at great expense in homes and businesses.

Almost all municipal customers buy bottled water due to chemical taste and chalky residue. This is an ongoing cost not mentioned by AVCSD. Ask any current municipal water user if they drink municipal water without filters. Ask if they purchase bottled water. Ask a municipal sewer/water user about their monthly payments and insurance costs. According to a recent article in the AV Advertiser written by the same local AVCSD spokesperson strongly in favor of the municipal plan, it was suggested the monthly fee for sewer and water will probably be less than the monthly cost for a phone, or TV service, or the internet. This statement is obviously not based on any research.

Dangerous Issue reported a few years ago: ”A vacuum truck during transportation of treatment chemicals to a sewer treatment facility in Santa Clara, California suffered a huge explosion resulting in a fire involving treatment chemicals delivered to a sewer treatment facility. The back of the truck was blown off, firefighter's sparked small explosions as they drove through or walked over the substance. There were injuries. It was determined one of the workers unloading the barrels accidentally mixed chemicals together that should not have been combined. Highway 126 was closed and residents in the area were evacuated.” Hundreds of similar accidents take place and are reported every year. 

Can anyone in all honestly question why the local Mendocino County Fair board does not want to house one of these dangerous monstrosities located in the Mendocino County Fair grounds they are ultimately responsible for protecting? 

If the fairgrounds is chosen for the sewer placement the sewer trucks on highways 253 and 128 will carry sewer sludge through the fairgrounds on to the local roads and highways - this presents an added danger for the community to endure. The board's unanimous vote to deny the installation of a sewer plant on county fairgrounds in spite of being constantly insulted by some residents was applauded by many, many thankful and appreciative property owners in Boonville.

One of the major and deliberate distortions AVCSD claims for installing this plan is a “survey/walk-through” undertaken by the Mendocino County Health Department in 1974 (forty-seven years ago). This claim was shamefully included in the AVCSD EIR as a reason why Boonville needs a municipal service. When the document was reviewed it was discovered no water samples were taken during the tour, the survey document was filed away by the Health Department; no action was ever taken. 

During this survey/walk-through and before, forty (40) saw mills were operational in Anderson Valley; 18 full-time fully functioning mills were situated in Boonville. Housing shacks were built to house mill workers, almost all had outdoor toilet facilities (outhouses). Some sewers at mill sites and homes were overwhelmed. Workers were camping along the creeks, the shacks were occupied by many families under one roof. Boonville suffered under constant smoke and ash from the mills; surface water (creeks, rivers) became undrinkable; there were very few indoor toilets available to accommodate the 2,000 plus Anderson Valley population during this time. 

Using forty-seven year old information from another era to scare residents into voting for this municipal plan is questionable to put it mildly. None of these conditions exist today, the population is greatly reduced, all areas were cleaned up long ago, mill housing is gone, no outhouses remain, all sites were abated, most areas were cleaned up and sold many years ago! Is this seriously the reason to saddle Boonville with a costly, dangerous sewer/water infrastructure based on a walk-through that took place forty-seven years ago?

Next step to proceed if the mandatory sewer site placement is secured: before any project gets underway for sewer/water a questionnaire will be sent to Boonville property owners regarding income levels. The municipal project is designed to serve low income populations - the low income level is set by the state each year. 

After the sewer placement is secured, the income audit will be administered by an outside legal group. The auditors are from an independent agency hired to substantiate income sources and assure accurate local reporting; fortunately, they are not within the realm of any community service district agency in California. If the income information relayed by parcel owners to the audit firm calculates at or below the threshold for the state's low income designation, this stressful, oppressive plan will then move to the next torturous step.

Oh! Whatever happened to the “innocent children” living on Haehl Street? They were supposedly the reason for all this Boonville sewer/water planning...perhaps they were not the reason after all? 

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *