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Permission for Delay in Repairs Unlikely : City Faces Huge Fine Over Pump Station 64

November 25, 1986|JANNY SCOTT | Times Staff Writer

The staff of the regional water-pollution agency is ready to recommend that the City of San Diego be fined $141,290.91 if, as expected, it fails to meet a crucial deadline next year in its program to upgrade Pump Station 64, the troubled North City sewage facility.

The city has asked the California Regional Water Quality Control Board for a 5 1/2-month extension of a deadline the city agreed to for replacing the station's pumps. The Sorrento Valley plant has repeatedly failed, dumping millions of gallons of raw sewage into Los Penasquitos Lagoon.

"Back when this matter was before the board in June and July, the board was considering very hefty penalties and a (sewer) connection ban for the area tributary to the pump station," David Barker, a senior engineer on the board's staff, said Monday.

"The board suspended the penalty and did not adopt a connection ban in large measure due to the city's firm commitment that they would meet the time schedule dates that they submitted to the board."

Barker said he believed that the staff would recommend at the board's Dec. 8 meeting that the body not modify the city's time schedule for repairs. He noted that city officials proposed the deadlines themselves and vowed not to miss any "by a single day."

Meanwhile, the board's staff on Monday proposed a maximum $20,000 penalty against the city for an Oct. 1 spill of sewage sludge off Fiesta Island into Mission Bay. The 2,000-gallon spill led to a weeklong quarantine of the Enchanted Cove portion of the bay, Barker said.

Barker said the staff chose the maximum penalty because it felt that the spill was preventable and because the city has a history of improper sludge disposal. The board staff accused the city earlier this year of illegally dumping sludge on city-owned land at Brown Field.

The city dries sludge, the solid byproduct of sewage treatment, on Fiesta Island.

The city may either pay the penalty or contest it at the Dec. 8 meeting. Armand Campillo, director of the city's Department of Water Utilities, said late Monday that he had not received the board's complaint and could not comment on it until he had seen it.

But he said "that was a very minor spill on Fiesta Island."

According to Barker, one of the "berm walls" around a "sludge bed" ruptured, allowing 1.3 million gallons of sludge to flow out of the bed. However, a secondary berm wall captured most of that spill, allowing only 2,000 gallons to pour into the bay.

As for Pump Station 64, Campillo said, the city requested the extension only after its consultant concluded that it would be impossible to expand the station's pumps and avoid a spill without building a new building to house the pumps.

For that reason, he said, the city wrote to the board earlier this month asking for the 5 1/2-month extension, noting that the portion of the project that involves installing larger pumps could not be completed until Nov. 15, 1987, instead of the May 31 deadline agreed on last summer.

In July, the board imposed a $646,800 fine against the city but suspended it pending completion of improvements to the plant. The board's order stated that, if the city missed any of the 49 prescribed deadlines, it would be fined $141,290.91 the first time and $11,290.91 each subsequent time.

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