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Boonville Scopes Out A Sewer System

On Thursday, October 12, I attended the Community Services District’s evening meeting regarding the potential wastewater collection/treatment/disposal system that has been in the works for the past two years.

The meeting was sparsely attended despite notices going out to all property owners potentially affected by the system. Val Hanelt opened the meeting with a brief overview of the history of both the water and sewer projects for Boonville, then she introduced the two speakers, David Coleman and Justin Witt from the engineering firm Brelje & Race, who have been working on the project since the State granted the CSD money to begin studies.

Witt began by explaining that this meeting was actually part of the CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) requirement for a “scoping session.” He stated that there will be another one coming up that will address both the water and the sewer projects combined; recently the State agreed to combine the projects for CEQA purposes.

Coleman then described the proposed waste water system.

There are four components: Collection, Conveyance, Treatment and Disposal. Collection involves collecting all waste water from the entire service area – mainly “downtown” Boonville, but it does go from Hutsell Road to the bridge at the north end of town. There are three collection alternatives: gravity, grinder pump and STEP. Gravity is obvious – gravity causes the effluent to flow into the system. A grinder pump involves a “grinder” to break down solids before pumping them to the treatment center. STEP stands for septic tank effluent pumping. In this latter case, each property would have a septic tank that would contain the solids while the liquids would flow on to the treatment center. These septic tanks would then need to be pumped every three to five years. The gravity system requires deeper trenching to obtain the gravity flow; the STEP system requires minimal trenching and also less treatment.

There are two treatment alternatives – secondary (biological treatment and disinfectant) and tertiary treatment (further disinfecting if the water is going to be used for something like irrigation).

There are also two disposal alternatives – Surface disposal, such as irrigation, which is good in the dry months, but not feasible in the winter; thus it would require storage. Sub-surface disposal, such as a large leach field, could be used year-‘round. At this time there are two location alternatives for the disposals – the airport and the field across from the high school.

Witt then explained the CEQA process: essentially an environmental review that requires public disclosure. The grant that has paid for the studies so far will also pay for EIR (Environmental Impact Report). The 30-day “Notice of Preparation” period ended on October 23. After that a draft EIR is prepared; then a “Notice of Availability” is sent out and the public will have 45 days to review this plus a public comment session. Then the final EIR will be drafted.

If the EIR finds any issues there is still a chance that the project could be approved. The State has the ability to issue a Statement of Overriding Considerations – basically, the public need may be more important than any particular issue. There is also a 30 day period where the EIR can be challenged in court – called the Notice of Determination. Potential issues include threats to biological resources (fish, plants, etc.); threats to cultural resources (archeological or historical sites); problems with the soils; hazardous materials; growth and costs.

Next steps:

The combining of the water and sewer projects (streamlining the EIR process); issuing a revised Notice of Preparation; drafting of the EIR and, importantly for the water project, finding the water source(s).

Questions from the Public:

Several were about “scalability” of the project and growth. The State funding for this project prohibits “speculative growth.” It only allows for design for the current estimated need, plus 10%. Any additional growth would be up to the community to develop. Growth is regulated by the County General Plan and the Zoning Code and the General Plan can only be updated twice a year (according to State law) through a lengthy process.

The type of collection system (STEP or grinder) has little effect on scale; the treatment facility is what is most impacted by growth. Of note, not one of the questions about growth was against growth – the concern was that we need more local housing, not less. That is a change from attitudes in years past.

Another question was whether or not property owners would be able to opt out of the system if it was approved. The answer: it is unclear; the County wants to know that sewage is accounted for and they could make opting out difficult; the water system may be easier to opt out of.

When a vote finally takes place, who can vote and what are they voting on? Answer: Only property owners in the sewer district will have a vote (there were some folks at the meeting who live in Philo and didn’t realize that they actually have no vote on this matter). The vote will be on the rate only; the design of the water and sewer system will be decided upon by the CSD and the Boonville Planners (a group the CSD has appointed to work on this, made up of local property and business owners) and presented to the voters as “the system.”

The meeting ran about an hour and a half; some late comers asked some of the same questions as had already been asked and there was some miscellaneous discussion. Overall, the meeting was succinct and the purpose clear and goals well explained. We are still a ways from this being a reality, but it is something to have gotten this far.

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