City officials to consider update to long-outdated sewage plan

Council members Monday are set to receive a report on what’s called the Hollister’s Sanitary Sewer Management Plan, an update to a long-outdated plan that comes after the state water board’s recent wastewater violation notice.

The state water board issued Hollister a notice of violation earlier this month for two separate 2016 wastewater spills that discharged into the San Benito River. The two spills occurred July 16 and Sept. 6, but city officials didn’t issue anything to the public about the matter until a Free Lance story last week revealed the one million-gallon wastewater spill that prompted state attention.

The outdated sewage plan was included as one of 10 violations in a notice issued by the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board earlier this month. The current plan is dated 2007 and requires an update at least every five years, the notice said. This means the current plan should have been updated by 2012, so it’s five years late.

The city last updated its sewer management plan while readying to open a new, 100 million wastewater plant built after the 15 million gallon sewage spill into the San Benito River bed in 2002. That 2002 disaster, caused by faulty equipment, led to a state-imposed building moratorium that devastated the local economy with its heavy emphasis on housing at the time.

With the latest spill issue, the city filled the related leak of a diversion valve in a line from the San Benito Foods tomato cannery with inflatable plugs, one of which eventually failed.
Council members approved an item relating to the replacement of the valve structure at a Jan. 17 meeting.

“The operation and maintenance of the City’s sanitary sewer collection system is not to be confused with the operation or requirements of the City’s wastewater treatment plant as they are different and they operate under completely separate permits,” the staff report says.

Council members were advised Nov. 16, 2015 that an audit of the plan revealed “deficiencies” needing correction for compliance, the staff report states. The city council authorized funding to update the plan as part of the 2015-16 mid-year budget process.

“It is staff’s desire that this presentation provide the City Council with an overall understanding of the City’s needs in order to successfully manage the program and to remain in regulatory compliance with the State’s mandate,” the staff report states.

Monday’s special meeting will take place at 5 p.m. at Hollister City Hall, 375 Fifth St. in Hollister.

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