Friday, April 1, 2022
Lynda visiting the Russian River County Sanitation District
Let's talk dirty!

Across West County we are tackling issues of long deferred infrastructure investment, state clean water regulations, and the challenging intersection of drought and water use.

Below are the top wastewater projects from sewer systems to composting toilets being addressed along with opportunities to learn more and provide input. Infrastructure investments are too often left until they become emergencies. It's past time for us to make needed infrastructure investment and re-think how we deal with wastewater to incorporate modern technologies into our permit system.
I am working with local leaders throughout the County to address solutions across the spectrum of wastewater solutions.

Photo above right is from our visit last month to the Russian River County Sanitation District on Neeley Road where they are working on long-overdue facility improvements.
RR Infrastructure and Rates Meeting : Monday, April 4 at 5:30
Russian River County Sanitation District to host a virtual meeting
on proposed rates for 2022-2023 
(Santa Rosa, CA) – The Russian River County Sanitation District (District) will host a virtual meeting on the proposed sewer fee charges for the upcoming fiscal year 2022–2023 on Monday, April 4 at 5:30 p.m. through a Zoom webinar. The informational community meeting will provide an overview of the 2022-2023 fiscal year budget, capital projects and the proposed fee increase. 
Member of the public are asked to register in advance for this webinar. 
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar. 
Webinar ID: 837 0670 0272 
The District is more than 40 years old and its aging infrastructure of collection and treatment systems require ongoing replacement and maintenance projects. With a relatively small ratepayer base, increasing costs are spread among fewer ratepayers. A proposed rate increase of 8.9% for the coming year will fund both ongoing and emergency repair projects. Rate increases in previous years have been in the 6% range in an effort to maintain lower rate increases. 
The Russian River County Sanitation District (District) began operation in 1983 and provides wastewater collection and treatment services for approximately 3,200 equivalent single-family dwellings in Rio Nido, Guerneville, Guernewood Park and Vacation Beach. Sonoma Water manages and operates the Russian River County Sanitation District. Learn more online at 
Graton - Occidental Pipeline Moving Forward
Graton.Occidental County Sanitation District - Graton Sewer Transfer Pipeline
Occidental County Sanitation District (OCSD) and Graton Community Services District (Graton) both have sewer service charges which are among the highest rates in California. 

The high rates are due to the cost associated with operating a small wastewater systems in areas with stringent wastewater treatment requirements. OCSD is currently hauling wastewater from an Occidental lift station to the Airport/Larkfield/Wikiup Sanitation Zone (ALWSZ) treatment plant for treatment and disposal in north Santa Rosa.

In 2021 OCSD and Graton agreed to conduct a feasibility study to assess transporting untreated wastewater from OCSD to Graton for treatment and disposal, to assess the capacity of the Graton wastewater treatment plant to treat and dispose of the total combined flow, and to construct a pipeline from OCSD to Graton to reduce costs and provide Graton with additional income necessary to prevent significant rate increases in the near future.

Anticipated Timeline
Pipeline design - April 2022 – February 2023
Public outreach - February 2022 – June 2025
Grant application - January 2022 – September 2024
CEQA documents - September 2022 – January 2024
Construction - October 2024 – March 2026

You can view the latest community meeting recording here:
Passcode: U1V7dKY*
Hot Topic : Composting Toilets
Supervisor Rabbitt and I are the Supervisors on the Ad Hoc for Onsite Wastewater Treatment System (OWTS). Our task is to work with Permit Sonoma, community stakeholders, and County Counsel on: (i) the Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems (OWTS) regulations; and (ii) evaluate options for allowing composting toilets. 

Depending on the Ad Hoc and staff’s progress, these items will be place on the calendar later in the year. Updates on the efforts will be shared with the Board and the public as part of the quarterly ad hoc updates on the Board’s calendar.

I have been a supporter of composting toilets as a way to address basic human needs, affordable housing, and water savings. One local group working on composting toilets is the Occidental Arts & Ecology Center. They have an engaging video and more information on composting toilets here.

A related item on the Board of Supervisors' upcoming calendar is item 49, April 5, 2022 Model Building Codes Local Workshop. 

This item will include the Tiny Homes / ADU discussion, and both Water Supply and Wastewater Treatment are specifically called out as considerations affecting tiny homes. While the OWTS ad hoc will be tasked with delving into the issue of composting toilets and other alternative wastewater solutions, it is sure to be tightly connected to this ongoing work related to building codes and emergency housing options.

Septic Systems and TMDL
New state regulations have been in the works for several years to reduce the Russian River's Total Minimum Daily Load (TMDL), including tools such as banning cesspools and requiring owners of properties served by OWTS within 600 feet of the Russian River and some of its tributaries to inspect and, if found insufficient, upgrade or replace old septic systems to bring them into compliance with the state rules. Although the county supports the goal of keeping the Russian River safe for recreational use, it is essential that such changes are made based on accurate data and come with funding solutions for residents.

The Lower Russian River Wastewater Citizens Advisory Group (CAG) is engaged with efforts to develop sustainable and affordable wastewater solutions for communities in the lower Russian River area that will improve local water quality and meet new State and County requirements. The CAG has two primary roles: (1) advising the Interagency Team (IT) that is coordinating regulatory and implementation efforts, including a wastewater treatment improvement pilot project for the Monte Rio/Villa Grande area, and (2) supporting citizens in understanding how the pilot project in combination with the new regulations might impact them. The CAG was appointed by the Interagency Team and has met consistently for over three years. The CAG works by consensus and actively participates in an advisory capacity and as an Interagency Team member.
Accomplishments to Date
The CAG has:
  • Made presentations on the CAG’s work to the Lower Russian River Municipal Advisory Council and the State and Regional Water Quality Control Boards.
  • Participated in the selection process to identify consultant(s) for a feasibility study of potential wastewater solutions and implementation for Monte Rio/Villa Grande. Note: Selection of the consultant is well underway and should occur soon.
  • Provided input to the role and selection of the Ombudsperson, responsible for supporting county residents in understanding and complying with wastewater regulations.
  • Worked with regulators to address what owners of septic systems can do if their septic systems fail or need improvement while broader solutions are being identified and implemented.
  • Introduced our issues to State and Federal elected and agency officials and requested their support in broadening acceptable solutions and identifying funding sources.
  • Hosted tours for Regional Board and Sonoma Water staff of the area to familiarize leadership with the scope and scale of the issues.
  • Met with representatives of the BOS, and encouraged a county-wide approach to wastewater; this resulted in the BOS budgeting a $350K allocation of county funds to better understand the scale of the issue county-wide and creating a Full-Time, county-wide permanent wastewater analyst’s position (which includes the Ombudsperson functions) currently in an active hiring process.
  • Pushed for a more generous interpretation of the State OWTS (Onsite Wastewater Treatment System) Policy in the County OWTS Manual and influenced technical language in the State Board’s LAMP (Local Area Management Plan) and the county’s OWTS manual including the definition of a “Qualified Inspector” of individual septic systems.
Going forward the CAG has identified four areas of focus for its work.
  • Advocacy - for people, resources, solutions, support and assistance including funding, building political will, providing for direct assistance to individuals, exploring a range of alternatives and supporting sustainable solutions.
  • Influence - the County and State to heighten awareness of the need for a priority on wastewater issues with the state and county staff and elected officials. Focus on getting the county more deeply engaged in funding, support and solutions and increasing Permit Sonoma participation and engagement in the process.
  • Collaboration - with the project consultant(s) and implementation partners. Provide advice on all aspects of the MR/VG Pilot project.
  • Communications - with the public and community. Provide easy access to minutes and relevant documents. Includes Website. Press releases, updates to elected officials and others. Help with community events. Help develop and support an overall communications strategy.
The LRRWCAG generally meets the fourth Thursday of each month from 6-8 pm, currently via Zoom. The public is welcome. More information on the CAG is on the County of Sonoma website here.
Fifth District Supervisor Lynda Hopkins | County of Sonoma | 707-565-2241