The Los Osos Waste Water Project went before the California Coastal Commission on Jan. 14 to finalize permitting. The hearing, which included a large number of local appellants including the Sierra Club, ended with a denial of a coastal development permit by the commission, based on finding substantial issues with the project. The commission ordered a de novo hearing on a limited scope of the facts.
The county will have to pin down specifics on the development and implementation of such aspects of the project as conservation, re-use and preservation of wetland resources, but may not review issues of collection, treatment and sludge. This is disappointing because these aspects greatly affect our coastal resources, specifically water quality and quantity.
The county’s chosen collection method is conventional gravity, a technology involving large pipes, deep trenching, 20,000 joints, and 900 manholes all of which become targets for both infiltration of water and exfiltration of sewage. In contrast, low-pressure collection consists of a sealed, small diameter pipe installed at shallow depths. Not only is the low-pressure system far less problematic, it is much less expensive and naturally brakes down solids, significantly decreasing bio hazardous sludge.
High fecal coliform levels are all too frequently found up and down the coast. Much of the problem can be attributed to leaking gravity systems that are under constant repair. Replacement of these aging systems could be easily and relatively inexpensively done with a low- pressure system and then natural treatment ponds could treat to tertiary making the cleaned water available for reuse, eliminating ocean outfall.
There are simple answers to our complex problems. The California Coastal Commission is forcing San Luis Obispo County to take a closer look at the LOWWP but will it be enough to move this precedent-setting project in a sustainable direction?