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Board Should Act Now to Rid Ocean of Sewage

June 02, 2002

Re "O.C. May Vote on Sewage Waiver," May 24: For almost a year, the Orange County Sanitation District's mantra has been "Wait until the science is in." Citizens, meanwhile, are demanding that 240 million gallons of sewage dumped each day into the Pacific off Huntington Beach and Newport Beach be treated to minimum levels as specified by the 1972 Clean Water Act. Each time citizens address their city councils, city representatives who also serve as sanitation district directors dutifully have repeated that mantra.

Now, after the agency spent $5 million on a scientific study that proved inconclusive, Placentia Councilman Norman Z. Eckenrode, who sits on the board, thinks it's "a great idea" to put the waiver issue on the November ballot for an advisory vote. At the May 15 special meeting of the sanitation district board, Eckenrode said, "The scientists provide the science, but we decide the policy." Unless, of course, the policy decision is tough. Then it's time to stall, obfuscate and look for political cover.

What the heck are we paying Eckenrode and the rest of these board members to do, if not to make decisions? The sanitation district has stated again and again that a decision must be made by July so its staff can prepare the permit application that's due in December. Now, conveniently, they're willing to wait for a November advisory vote on this issue, which will end up costing taxpayers even more money.

If you live in Anaheim, Brea, Buena Park, Cypress, Fountain Valley, Garden Grove, La Habra, Los Alamitos, Placentia, Santa Ana, Stanton, Tustin, Villa Park or Yorba Linda, ask your city council members what they know about this issue and why they've remained mute. Are they in favor of the continued dumping of pathogens as allowed by the waiver?

The residents served by the sanitation district deserve better.

Dennis Baker

Corona del Mar

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The Orange County Sanitation District's dumping of 240 million gallons of half-treated sewage a day into the ocean is a monumentally repulsive act. It has created a thick plume of free-floating toilet refuse in the ocean. The district is entrusted with protecting the health of the people by cleaning up the county's sewage. Instead, it uses a waiver to bypass the Clean Water Act. That is negligence of the most arrogant dimension and a violation of the pubic trust.

In the process of not doing its job, the district has amassed a $550-million surplus of taxpayer money. So much for its claim that it can't afford to treat the sewage properly. Fish, whales, dolphins, swimmers and surfers have to make their way through that sickening muck. Think about it and then enjoy your next swim and your next seafood dinner.

Marinka Horack

Huntington Beach

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Re "Don't Renew Sewage Waiver," Editorials, May 5:

I say amen to your editorial. The Orange County Sanitation District's own figures show that it has a reserve of $400 million to $600 million. It will cost each taxpayer $40 a year for full secondary treatment, which the Clean Water Act demands. More than 16,000 sanitation districts accomplish this--just 34 have waivers. Of those, Orange County is the largest. Why the foot dragging? Assembly Bill 1969 would force the district to get rid of the waiver. The sanitation district has a paid lobbyist fighting this bill. When we ask people who's for the waiver, nobody raises a hand. It looks like the district is alone in wanting the waiver, and is spending our money fighting to keep it.

Eileen Murphy

Huntington Beach

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