Re "Don't Renew Sewage Treatment Waiver," Editorial, May 5:
The Orange County Sanitation District is not, as you stated, largely "self-monitored," nor do we have latitude in what we communicate to the public. We are, in fact, highly regulated. Our waste-water collection, treatment and disposal operations are closely monitored and regulated by state and federal agencies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the California Regional Water Quality Control Board and the South Coast Air Quality Management District.
We agree with The Times that we can do a better job of communicating with the public. Over the years we have held meetings and workshops, conducted tours and open houses, distributed newsletters, addressed civic and volunteer groups, participated in the Orange County Fair, met one-on-one with people and posted information on our Web site.
The 20-meter study that was conducted in 1996, and which was the subject of your editorial, tracked treated waste water released offshore. The sanitation district invited residents, environmental groups and regulators to an August 1997 meeting with district staff to discuss results of the offshore bacterial study. An oral report on the study was presented at the meeting, which was attended by representatives of the California Regional Water Quality Control Board and others. The issue was addressed without concern by regulators.
District staff members are always available to meet with residents and business owners to answer questions about how we process and release treated waste water more than four miles offshore and to give an overview of our 25-year ocean monitoring program. Anyone who has questions or who would like to speak with me or my staff should call (714) 962-2411 to set up an appointment.
Our mission is to protect public health and the environment through responsible waste water management. We do this with a sense of responsibility to the 2.4 million people we serve and to the regulatory agencies that govern us.
O.C. Sanitation District
Re "Huntington Beach Stretch Opens After Month Off-Limits," May 10:
Since the Orange County Sanitation District's board of directors' meeting April 24, 4.8 billion gallons of partially treated sewage have been discharged into the Pacific off Huntington Beach. More than 2 billion gallons received advanced primary treatment. Four billion gallons of sewage discharged in 17 days--and sanitation district experts don't have the slightest idea what's causing the bacteria forcing beach closings.
Huntington Beach Mayor Debbie Cook is right when she says the discharge from the sanitation district's outfall pipe is part of the beach contamination problem. The lack of rain in Orange County this spring reduces the validity of an urban runoff argument, and the beach cities have inspected sewer lines. The only thing that has not changed is the sanitation district's sewage treatment protocol.
Cook, a district director, has properly embraced the role and responsibility of a city representative to the district.
I agree with Huntington Beach Mayor Debbie Cook's argument that the discharge of 250 million gallons a day of partially treated sewage by the Orange County Sanitation District may be the culprit in Huntington Beach. There is plenty of evidence that the sewage plume makes its way back toward the shoreline, despite being discharged 4.5 miles out to sea. When will the sanitation district wake up and hold itself accountable? At least Orange County cities can see the evidence staring them in the face.
Just this last week, La Palma passed a resolution opposing the waiver that allows the sanitation district to get away with this malfeasance. Thanks to La Palma Mayor Paul F. Walker for taking the initiative and leaving a legacy for his children. We need more cities to have his vision.