CA - Repeated Sewage Leaks Since January Could Trigger State Action : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

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Thursday, March 23, 2000

News from Dana Point in the Times Community Newspapers (CA)

Title: Sewage leaks could trigger state action

Regional water board chairman says Moulton Niguel's repeated spills could prompt cleanup order or fines.


The Moulton Niguel Water District could face fines or an order to clean up its sewer lines because of a history of repeated spills that have closed local beaches, said the head of an agency that enforces water-quality laws.

Wayne Baglin, chairman of the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board, said his agency hasn't singled out the Laguna Niguel-based water district for a cleanup order, but that the "pattern of violation is certainly something that's bound to get attention."

He said repeated sewage spills in any system "will ultimately lead to an enforcement order."

The board could issue fines of up to $10 for every gallon of spilled sewage, Baglin said.

Moulton Niguel has reported five spills of raw or partially treated sewage in Mission Viejo since Jan. 31, when 2,000 gallons of sewage poured into Oso Creek from a district pipe near Marguerite Parkway. The spill forced county health officials to close a stretch of Doheny State Beach in Dana Point.

The county closed another large section of Doheny after a Feb. 19 spill sent 500 gallons of sewage into Oso Creek, which empties into the ocean at the beach. A series of spills has kept the beach closed since March 11, when tree roots blocking a Moulton Niguel pipe caused 21,000 gallons of raw sewage to flow into the creek. The district reported seven spills last year that forced beach closures, including a 13,000-gallon spill in Laguna Niguel in February.

Water district officials said most spills are accidents, and many can be traced to public negligence.

Moulton Niguel's recent spills were caused by cooking grease dumped into the sewer or tree roots growing into lines, said Larry Dees, director of operations.

Other spills in the area have been caused by bowling balls, surgical gloves, toys and other objects that somehow wind up in the sewer system.

The five spills are the most in the area aside from the cities of Anaheim and Garden Grove, which each have had eight spills this year.

Dees said it wouldn't be fair for the board to cite Moulton Niguel for accidental spills. The district regularly cleans and maintains its 700 miles of pipes, he said. "If we were negligent, then they'd be justified," Dees said. Baglin said even accidental spills are considered violations of state law. "They're just too accustomed to accepting accidents, and accidents are violations," he said.

Baglin said he wants water districts and cities to add safeguards to storm drain systems to trap spilled sewage.

Water districts are "totally responsible for [installing] backup systems to keep spills from reaching the waters of the state," he said. The water quality board has exercised its authority before. In December, it ordered the county and Laguna Niguel to reduce bacteria levels in a storm drain dumping urban runoff into Aliso Creek.

Under the board's threat of lawsuits or up to $5,000 per day in fines, Laguna Niguel and the county submitted a plan last month to clean up the drain, prevent future pollution and monitor water quality.

Copyright 2000 Los Angeles Times


-- (, March 24, 2000

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