City to Make Sewer Deadline

City officials say Hollister will make its state-mandated Dec.
31 deadline for completing a long-term wastewater plan
– the first new deadline Hollister faces since the Central Coast
Regional Water Quality Control Board gave the city more time to
solve its sewer problems in October.
Hollister – City officials say Hollister will make its state-mandated Dec. 31 deadline for completing a long-term wastewater plan – the first new deadline Hollister faces since the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board gave the city more time to solve its sewer problems in October.

A draft of a plan to address long-term wastewater treatment and disposal was completed last month, City Manager Clint Quilter said. Officials with the city and the San Benito County Water District are reviewing the draft and will make any appropriate changes to have a final version by the Dec. 31 deadline, he said.

In 2002, after 15 million gallons of treated sewage spilled into the San Benito River, the RWQCB slapped a moratorium on new sewer hook-ups and gave Hollister until Oct. 15 of this year to build a new sewage treatment plant. In October, the city dodged $200,000 in fines when, at the request of Quilter, the RWQCB gave the city more time to construct a new sewage treatment plant.

Despite the city skirting state-imposed fines, officials claim the sewer moratorium has adversely affected everything from the local economy to school financing, and many say the city’s financial straits won’t improve until the moratorium is lifted.

Drafting a long-term wastewater plan by the end of the year is the first of the three revised deadlines.

The other revised deadlines include awarding a construction contract for a new treatment plant by late 2006 and drafting a disposal plan for treated wastewater by March, 2007. Each deadline missed will result in more than $66,000 in fines being levied against the city, according to the RWQCB.

The city is also looking for land to build the new sewage treatment plant on, Quilter said.

“We’re going through the process,” he said, adding that finding a location for the plant is part of ongoing state-mandated environmental studies for the project.

Quilter has said that, barring any delay during the environmental studies, the city will meet all the revised deadlines. Construction on a new sewage treatment plant is slated to begin between June and September of 2006, he said.

Plans for a new sewage treatment plant are 90 percent complete, according to Quilter. The major hang-up, however, has been devising a way to dispose of treated wastewater.

Currently, wastewater is percolated into the ground, but once the new plant is built there will be too much water to continue doing that. Quilter said that spray fields – where recycled wastewater will be sprayed over hearty, inedible plants – are the short-term solution to the disposal dilemma. The city is currently working on locating potential spray field sites, he said.

Ultimately, the ideal disposal solution is to use treated wastewater for agriculture. But the city’s mineral-rich water is harmful to plants and will need further treatment to be used for agriculture. Even if the water is demineralized, the city will have to convince farmers that using treated wastewater is safe.

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