County addresses pollution concerns

Daniel Mintz
Mad River Union

CLAM & MOONSTONE BEACH AREA – County staff has responded to concerns about potential onsite wastewater system impacts to impaired watersheds in the Clam/Moonstone Beach area, saying a mix of public outreach and monitoring will address them.

The impacts relate to elevated fecal coliform levels at Luffenholtz Beach, Clam Beach, Trinidad State Beach and Moonstone Beach, which were listed as impaired in 2013. Other watercourses, including Little River, Widow White Creek, Strawberry Creek, Campbell Creek and Jolly Giant Creek were added to the impaired list in 2015.

Whether the areas added later will be adequately addressed was discussed during the Nov. 7 Board of Supervisors meeting. Supervisors considered the county’s Local Agency Management Program (LAMP), which outlines how state onsite treatment standards will be complied with.

During the discussion, Supervisor Mike Wilson noted that Humboldt Baykeeper has commented on the county program’s lack of specific inclusion of the water bodies added in 2015.

State standards cite 600-foot wastewater system setbacks from impaired water bodies but there’s some leeway. Carolyn Hawkins of the county’s Department of Environmental Health said the county proposes to monitor feeder streams – such as those from the 2015 list – instead of requiring the setbacks.

The county has proposed “special provisions” targeting areas upstream of the impaired waters, with 200-foot buffers applied to feeder streams.

Hawkins added that a combination of public outreach and application of existing county rules will ensure that all the impaired water bodies are assessed.

The education component would inform people on how onsite systems should be maintained. The county will also look at its records to identify systems that are “in poor condition or risky.”

County code requires people to pump their septic tanks every seven years, Hawkins added, and her department would make sure the maintenance is up to date. Water sampling will also be done to identify whether the sources of the impairment are human or wildlife, or both.

The county’s LAMP will also be reviewed for effectiveness every five years, Hawkins continued.

Also during the discussion, Supervisor Rex Bohn noted that Environmental Health will need to hire two more staffers at a cost of $200,000 a year to cover the added workload of the county’s onsite wastewater program.

The cost will be covered through fees charged to those who fall under regulations and if those fees aren’t adequate, the overage is covered generally by county taxpayers.

Bohn questioned that, saying, “I thought this would expedite the process rather than creating more delays or more work.”

The county is in the midst of a historic effort to permit commercial marijuana production and Hawkins said her department has “a whole lot more work and not enough staff to get it done at the rate that people want it to get done … so we have an increasing workload as it is.”

The state’s compliance policy, meanwhile, increases the amount of data collection, report writing and monitoring related to onsite wastewater systems, she continued.

Supervisor Estelle Fennell said she supports the county LAMP. “It really gives us the opportunity to be proactive and go where the problem is, learn about it and do the tests that are necessary,” she continued.

There was no public comment on the program and its lack of controversy was noted by Board Chair Virginia Bass. The county’s program was shaped by public involvement and the draft LAMP and related regulations were publicly released over a year ago.

Supervisors approved the county LAMP, which will go before the state’s Water Resources Control Board for state approval. Its implementation will occur by spring of 2018.

Supervisor Ryan Sundberg was not able to attend the meeting.


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