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Rincon Point sewer project clears hurdle

Ventura County supervisors back a vote on replacing beach homes' septic tanks.

July 11, 2007|Catherine Saillant | Times Staff Writer

For years, surfers at popular Rincon Point north of Ventura complained that foul ocean water was making them sick.

They cited studies showing that human waste from leaky septic tanks from dozens of beach homes was responsible for the pollution.

On Tuesday, Ventura County supervisors unanimously supported a resolution that could pave the way for 72 Rincon Point homeowners to decide if they want to assess themselves for the cost of replacing septic tanks with sewer service.

The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors and the Carpinteria Sanitary District must pass their own resolutions before a vote is held, likely in late summer, officials said. The beach homes straddle both counties, and if voters support the proposal they would be hooked up to the sanitary district's sewer lines.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday July 12, 2007 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 39 words Type of Material: Correction
Sewer service: An article in some editions of Wednesday's California section about homeowners in Rincon Point, north of Ventura, possibly voting for sewer service misspelled the last name of Hillary Hauser, a representative of Heal the Ocean, as Houser.

Surfers and environmentalists have long pushed for a conversion to sewer service because of public health concerns. Paul Jenkin of the Surfrider Foundation's Ventura County chapter said he's seen the effects firsthand at the world-famous surf point.

"On a good surf day, there will be more than 100 people in the water and people were getting sick," Jenkin said, adding, "To see Rincon hooked up will be a bright day for the beaches of Ventura County."

If it goes forward, the Rincon conversion would be the flagship of a larger effort by the Carpinteria Sanitary District to provide sewer service to 177 homes in four beach communities.

Homes in Sandyland Cove, Sand Point Road and Padaro Lane, all in southern Santa Barbara County, have been on septic tanks since they were built. Some of the tanks are more than 50 years old, officials said.

Support for conversion is strong among most beach homeowners, according to Craig Murray, general manager of the Carpinteria Sanitary District.

The Rincon community held an assessment vote in 2000 and about 70% agreed to tax themselves, Murray said. But the vote was rescinded after three Rincon property owners challenged the the election in court, he said.

Since then, the sanitary district has performed an environmental analysis of how the sewer upgrade would effect the neighborhood, he said. The project would connect each of the Rincon Point homes to an existing sewer line 1.3 miles away at Carpinteria Bluffs, Murray said.

If residents agree to form an assessment district, they would pay an estimated $360 a month for 20 to 30 years to cover the cost of constructing sewer lines, he said. The mail-in vote requires a simple majority for passage.

Opponents say there is no evidence that septic tanks are contaminating ocean waters near Rincon Point.

High fecal counts detected in the water by state and county environmental officials likely is caused by pets on the beach, opponents say.

Laying sewer lines would cause more harm to the environment than that posed by septic tanks, some argue.

"Why attempt something so risky when there really is little or no problem?" Marilyn Ulvaeus, a Rincon resident since 1972, asked in written comments to the sanitary district. "Before embarking on such a possibly calamitous task wouldn't it be better to check each of our septic systems to see which ones are in need of repair and go from there?"

Hillary Houser of Heal the Ocean said technicians hired by the Santa Barbara environmental group used DNA technology to trace the source of pollution.

"The preponderance of bacteria was of human origin. So the homes were implicated," Houser said.

catherine.saillant@latimes.com

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