Report on spills: City violated federal water act, failed to update plan

Houses over look the holding ponds at the end on South Street.

A state water board report on Hollister’s two summer sewage spills notes how the city potentially violated the federal Clean Water Act and 10 state violations.

The Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board last week issued Hollister a notice of violation for two separate 2016 sewage spills that discharged into the San Benito River, according to a document obtained by the Free Lance.

“In addition, unauthorized waste discharges to waters of the U.S. violate federal Clean Water Act section 301, which prohibits all discharges to such waters except those authorized by a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit,” the notice of violation reads.

Hollister’s water board violations fall into four categories: Sanitary Sewer Overflow/Spill, Order Conditions, Failure to Notify, and Late Report. Out of the 10 violations, two are categorized as Sanitary Sewer Overflow/Spill, two are Order Conditions, two are Failure to Notify and four are Late Report.

Excluding the two Sanitary Sewer Overflow/Spill violations, the other eight are categorized as Class II violations. The water board defines Class II as “violations that pose a moderate, indirect or cumulative threat to water quality and, therefore, have the potential to cause detrimental impacts on human health and the environment. Negligent or inadvertent noncompliance with water quality regulations that has the potential for causing or allowing the continuation of an unauthorized discharge or obscuring past violations is also a class(sic) II violation.”
The two Sanitary Sewer Overflow/Spill violations are the July 16 and Sept. 6, 2016 spills, respectively.

One Order Condition is a violation of the Sanitary Sewer System Management Plan, currently dated 2007 and overdue for an update. The plan requires an update at least every five years. The other Order Condition relates to odor caused by the spills that created a public nuisance.

The two Failure to Notify violations are related to the fact that the City of Hollister didn’t immediately notify proper county and state authorities upon discovery of the spills.

Among the four Late Report violations, one noted a period of 34 days.

Here’s a breakdown of those violations as documented in the California Integrated Wastewater Quality System, the water board’s computer system:

Sewer Overflow/Spill

Defined as: “Discharge from collection system (except private laterals); other spills and/or bypassing of treatment unit(s).”

7/16/2016
The Industrial Storm Sewer Line slide-gate on West Street (around 70 feet south of Hawkins Street) failed. It caused 600,000 gallons of sewage to spill, but no surface water body was affected.

Corrective action taken: contained all or portion of the spill.

9/6/2016
The sewer system overflow was due to equipment failure (plug) at the slide-gate. Around 338,524 gallons of waste discharged through the system until it was stopped by installing a new plug. Around 300,043 gallons of waste was contained in the Apricot lane ditch and pumped back into the wastewater treatment plant.

Around 38,481 gallons of waste discharged beyond the ditch containment and into the dry river bed. The description notes that the San Benito River was affected.
Corrective action taken: contained all or portion of spill and returned portion of spill to sanitary sewer system.

Order Conditions

Defined as: “Violations of prohibitions, provisions, and maintenance-type requirements (e.g., pond freeboard) contains in the permit/WDRs.”

7/16/2016
SSS Order Provision D.14 requires an update of the Sanitary Sewer System Management Plan every five years. The City of Hollister is in violation of this provision because the plan is currently dated 2007. Therefore it’s overdue for an update.

Corrective action taken: Currently pending submittal and review of technical report, due Feb. 27.

Classification: Category 2

7/21/2016
The odors created by the July 16 sewer system overflow caused a nuisance in violation of WDR Prohibition C.2 for at least five days.

Corrective action taken: Currently pending submittal and review of technical report, due Feb. 27.

Classification: Category 2

Failure to Notify

Defined as: “Failure to notify the Water Board of a spill within a defined period of time.”

8/2/2016
The City of Hollister failed to “immediately” notify the San Benito County Environmental Health Department about the July 16 spill upon discover, which is a violation of Provision G.4.

Corrective action taken: Currently pending submittal and review of technical report, due Feb. 27.

Classification: Category 2

8/2/2016
The City of Hollister failed to properly report the July 16 spill as a Category 1 in the California Integrated Wastewater Quality System (the water board’s computer system) and to report it to the San Benito County Office of Emergency Services in violation of both SSS Order Provision D.5 and Reporting Requirement G.2.
Corrective action taken: Currently pending submittal and review of technical report, due Feb. 27.

Classification: Category 2

Late Report

Defined as: “Report is not received after its due date.”

8/5/2016
The City of Hollister’s draft sewer system overflow report for the July 16 spill was due no later than Aug. 5. The city submitted a draft report to the water board’s computer system on Aug. 29. That’s a 24-day violation of SSS Order Provision D.5, Reporting Requirement G.2 and MRP Requirement C.4.i.

Corrective action taken: Currently pending submittal and review of technical report, due Feb. 27.

Classification: Category 2

8/26/2016
The City of Hollister’s final sewer system overflow report certification for the July 16 spill was due no later than Aug. 29. The city certified the report in the water board’s computer system on Sept. 29. That’s a 34-day violation of SSS Order Provision D.5, Reporting Requirement G.2 and MRP Requirement C.4.i.

Corrective action taken: Currently pending submittal and review of technical report, due Feb. 27.

Classification: Category 2

9/9/2016
The City of Hollister’s draft sewer system overflow report for the Sept. 6 spill was due no later than Sept. 9. The city submitted a draft report to the water board’s computer system on Sept. 15. That’s a six-day violation of SSS Order Provision D.5, Reporting Requirement G.2 and MRP Requirement C.4.i.

Corrective action taken: Currently pending submittal and review of technical report, due Feb. 27.

Classification: Category 2

9/21/2016
The City of Hollister’s final sewer system overflow report certification for the Sept. 6 spill was due no later than Sept. 21. The city certified the report in the water board’s computer system on Sept. 29. That’s an eight-day violation of SSS Order Provision D.5, Reporting Requirement G.2 and MRP Requirement C.4.i.

Corrective action taken: Currently pending submittal and review of technical report, due Feb. 27.

Classification: Category 2

To examine the state violation reports, go here and link to Interactive Violation Reports.

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