Hollister City officials expect a timely completion of emergency
storage basins at the wastewater treatment plant by a Wednesday
deadline established by the Regional Water Quality Control
Hollister City officials expect a timely completion of emergency storage basins at the wastewater treatment plant by a Wednesday deadline established by the Regional Water Quality Control Board.
If the city fails to finish on time, it will owe a $150,000 fine to the state’s Cleanup and Abatement Fund.
“It will be completed in the next few days,” Utilities Manager Jim Perrine said. “I’ve been assured of that.”
City Engineer Steve Wittry said the storage basins were essentially finished right now.
“They’re just cleaning up the site,” he said, referring to Mark Nicholson, Inc., the company contracted for construction on the project.
The city hired Nicholson Nov. 11, and construction began Thanksgiving week. The original estimated cost of construction was $130,800, but alterations increased the cost by $40,000 to $50,000.
City officials decided to construct the emergency storage basins because of forecasts for an El Nino rainy season. Without the emergency storage basins, if rainfall reaches 1997-98 levels (the most recent El Nino), current plant capacity would be surpassed by more than 21 million gallons, according to Public Works Director Clint Quilter.
The RWQCB mandated construction of three “supplemental environmental projects” in September – the ponds were one of them – as part of a larger penalty for a 15-million gallon sewage spill May 4 at the wastewater treatment plant.
The city must meet six construction deadlines during the next three years – Wednesday’s being the first – or face incremental fines of up to $300,000.
“We anticipate it (the emergency storage basins) will be necessary if the weather forecasts are correct,” Perrine said. “We hope that we don’t have to use it.”
The crew only faced minor problems during the 30 days of construction, working everyday but Sundays. During torrent rainstorms during mid-December, the ground turned extremely moist, hindering the mobility of tractors at the site.
The city ran into one serious deterrent to finishing the storage basins by the deadline – a well-publicized disagreement over the project from the San Benito County Water District and the county.
Both agencies took Hollister to court over construction of the emergency storage basins in late November. The two agencies contested the project because of discrepancies relating to the California Environmental Quality Act. Additionally, county officials said the city failed to perform an adequate environmental review before construction.
A week ago, the parties reached an out-of-court settlement that stipulated that until additional environmental review is complete, the city would not fill the ponds unless an emergency occurred.
Hollister officials also agreed to consult county and water district officials during the environmental review process and also throughout the Long-term Wastewater Management Plan, which is scheduled for completion in October 2005.
The next deadline according to the RWQCB’s Administrative Civil Liabilities fine is Aug. 1, which is the scheduled completion date in the Long-term Wastewater Management Plan of new headworks designed to improve wastewater flow and measurement.