If the recent history of sewer politics in San Luis Obispo County tells us anything, the project to upgrade the aging Paso Robles wastewater plant should be going horribly awry. The outlook for the project, however, remained rosy as the city officially wrapped up the planning phase on the $47 million undertaking at a groundbreaking ceremony on April 12.
Construction on the upgrades began two months after the city council approved a contract bid that came in more than $3 million under budget. The city moved to modernize the 59-year-old wastewater plant to stop chemical seepage into the Salinas River that prompted the state to start fining the city $6,000 per month in 2004. Fines will continue until the new plant is up and running.
Lead wastewater engineer Matt Thompson reported that nothing has changed since the city council approved the contracts in February. Paso Robles still expects construction to finish by October 2015.
By contrast, wastewater continues to prove a thorn in the side of neighboring communities. The Los Osos sewer controversy led to the bankruptcy of the local community services district in 2006. Morro Bay and Cayucos spent millions of dollars to upgrade their aging plant before the Coastal Commission vetoed the facility’s proposed site last year. A report documenting extensive problems with the South County wastewater facility coincided with the resignation of the sanitation district director in February.
Of course, things can still go wrong after construction begins, such as when crews working on the Los Osos wastewater facility accidentally excavated a Chumash burial site last month.