San Simeon's Community Services District has been fined $60,000 by the Regional Water Quality Control Board for 20 violations of its discharge permit.
The penalty follows two other fines totaling $164,000 in 2005, issued after excessive coliform bacteria was found in the community's treated wastewater, which is discharged into the ocean 900 feet offshore.
The water board decided to allow the San Simeon CSD to put $136,500 of the total penalty amount toward design and construction of an upgraded treatment system that will produce recycled water and eliminate a portion of the waste discharged to the ocean. The deadline for completing the upgraded system, known as tertiary treatment, has been extended to July 2012 to allow adequate time for design and construction.
San Simeon's treatment plant handles sewage produced by the Hearst Castle Visitors Center and the coastal community of San Simeon, with a total of 227 sewage connections.
"With so few customers, all projects must go through a higher level of review because any rate increase could easily be defeated by a 50 percent protest vote under Proposition 218," CSD attorney Rob Schultz wrote to the water board.
The San Simeon CSD is also involved in a long-running dispute with the Coastal Commission over the riprap installed along the bluff in front of the sewage treatment plant, a controversy which the CSD says has delayed improvements to the plant.