“You need to be fair and equitable with your decision,” Bill Nicoll, chairman of the South SLO County Sanitation District, told water quality officials on Oct. 3—just before they began deliberating over the penalty for a major sewage spill.
No decision had been announced by press time.
The Regional Water Quality Control Board was considering imposing a $1.3 million fine, after thousands of gallons of raw sewage ran into creeks and the ocean, and backed up into people’s homes, in December 2010.
At a 16-hour hearing on Sept. 7, state prosecutors blamed lack of maintenance and improper operating procedures for the spill, while the sanitation district argued that the spill was caused by a winter flood and “a series of unfortunate events.”
Sanitation district officials objected to the conduct of the Sept. 7 hearing two weeks later, saying they were “fatigued” before presenting their case, the room was too hot, they didn’t receive investigatory files, and Nicoll wasn’t allowed to speak as a member of the public.
Most of their objections were overruled by the hearing office, but Nicoll was allowed to make a public comment, when he warned board members: “Any substantial fine is going to adversely severely affect all ratepayers [in the district.]
Check newtimesslo.com for updates as they become available.