Op-Ed: LOCSD Has Lost Its Way

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By Kathryn Lohmeyer Rohrer

To the Los Olivos Community Services District (LOCSD) Board of Directors,

The LOCSD has lost its way, and you run the very real risk of forfeiting local control over the solution to this community’s longstanding groundwater quality problem.  Rather than doubling down on your decision to enlarge the sewer and sewage treatment component of the wastewater management project the LOCSD was formed to implement in 2018, it is time to adjust course back to the project approved by your voters and endorsed by every relevant stakeholder.

It is time to stop misleading the community about the actions you have taken without community engagement or approval.  You have never acknowledged or explained to your voters that you changed the nature, size and scope of the plans for a sewer system for Los Olivos.  Your response to anyone attempting to hold you accountable for your unauthorized actions has been to label them an “outsider,” misinformed or worse; this is destructive and divisive at a time when it is critical that the entire community works together to get this project underway.

It is time to get back to work on this community’s desired solution.  “The Local Phased Approach” was identified as the appropriate option for your tiny District (serving just 391 parcels of land) at least a decade before the LOCSD came into existence.  It was then promoted and adopted by you.  The Local Phased Approach includes both:

(a) A small wastewater treatment plant that is fully enclosed in a barn-like structure and located to serve a sewer constructed for the fewer than 80 small, compact lots that make up the downtown commercial core of Los Olivos; and

(b) A decentralized wastewater treatment (advanced septic) project, which can include of a variety of approaches for collection, treatment, and dispersal/reuse of wastewater for individual residences, clusters of homes or businesses, and even entire communities.

It is unfortunate that community members must now try to remind you of the many reasons you adopted the Local Phased Approach for Los Olivos, but here are a few reminders:

1.      A compact, enclosed wastewater treatment plant in and for the commercial core:

·       Is consistent with the County’s land use policies discouraging extension of sewers service to rural areas because such extensions encourage density and urban sprawl.

·       Avoids the environmental impacts that are associated with extending sewers through agricultural lands.

·       Enhances groundwater recharge (lessening the concentration of nitrates) by treating and reinjecting the District’s wastewater at the northern end of the Special Problem Area. 

·       Protects against threats to biological resources in the Valley, including the effects of urbanization (noise, fencing, odor, trucks, vermin) associated with a sewage plant sized to serve every parcel inside your District and expandable to process sewage from parcels north of the 154 and south to Ballard.

2.         The decentralized wastewater (advanced septic) project:

·       Is more cost-effective and economical, avoids large capital expenditures and costs less to operate and maintain.

·       Is green and sustainable, responding to growth while preserving green space.

·       Protects public health, mitigating contamination and health risks associated with sewage treatment plants.

It is time to work on securing funding for the Local Phased Approach.  The most rudimentary Google search reflects the availability of federal and state funding for decentralized projects for small communities like Los Olivos.  The Board’s assertions that a larger, expensive, growth-inducing system is required for funding are flatly untrue.

It is time to take off your NIMBY (Not in My Backyard) hats.  A quick glance at any of your site-selection “studies” shows that the you have repeatedly manipulated the criteria in an effort to ensure placement of the large, open-air sewage plant you have been pursuing (1) outside the LOCSD’s jurisdiction and outside the Special Problem Area the plant will serve; (2) on prime agricultural land; and (3) along a scenic, rural road with a bike path used by both locals and tourists.  Your reasoning conflicts with Santa Ynez Valley Community Planpolicies that recognize and support the preservation of distinct and separate urban townships, and the preservation and enhancement of agriculture as a vital component of the Valley’s economy and rural character.

It is time to stop trying to “export” the public health hazards created by your expanded project.  Sewage plants (unless they employ injection, septic tanks or leach fields) treat raw sewage utilizing aeration processes that, invariably, emit aerosols that contain pathogens.  The fact that you would even contemplate, let alone spend public money to study, using treatment methods that produce pathogen-containing aerosols anywhere near any residence seems reckless.  Pushing to place an open-air sewage plant with a 15,000 gallon liquid sludge tank on a lot that is surrounded on three sides by nearby homes of young children who attend Los Olivos Elementary School is unconscionable.

You still have the time to succeed, but every day you spend defending your decision to abandon the mission presented to and supported by the community brings you a day closer to failure – not just for you but for our community.

Kathryn Lohmeyer Rohrer is a neighbor, mother, and community advocate at www.localcontrol4losolivos.org

Op-Ed's are written by community members, not representatives of edhat. The views and opinions expressed in Op-Ed articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of edhat. 
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a-1654662825 Jun 07, 2022 09:33 PM
Op-Ed: LOCSD Has Lost Its Way

A good editorial, BUT -- for those of us not in your jurisdiction, you must edit your article for your audience and start with some explanatory paragraphs.

I sympathize. I hope you won't dismiss the good for the ideal.

And -- You think YOU have it bad?! Be thankful that pig urine and manure pits are not being sprayed on your house. See "Wastelands" by Corbin Addison. And people don't get systemic racism and the misuse and abuse of the poor...

a-1654666878 Jun 07, 2022 10:41 PM
Op-Ed: LOCSD Has Lost Its Way

In fact, I'm one who BOTHERED TO VOTE in today's primary that it appears will get 30-something voter turnout.

a-1654666794 Jun 07, 2022 10:39 PM
Op-Ed: LOCSD Has Lost Its Way

Got it, thanks for the reply. I'm one who can easily access more info re: search engines. Good luck to you all.

Kathryn Lohmeye... Jun 07, 2022 09:52 PM
Op-Ed: LOCSD Has Lost Its Way

I hear you re the need for more back story for those not in Los Olivos. I was trying to keep the OpEd short, and I know that was done at the expense of some background. For those who are interested, there is more background available on the “How We Got Here” page of our community advocacy website: https://www.localcontrol4losolivos.org/timeline

RHS Jun 07, 2022 06:50 PM
Op-Ed: LOCSD Has Lost Its Way

Without more information, this seems to be an excellent dissection of a local problem. Historically it has been important to fight against the attitude of entrenched locals who do now want to change and who resist scientific solutions to problems and who think the goal of any community is to expand and exploit.

SBCountyLocal Jun 07, 2022 01:53 PM
Op-Ed: LOCSD Has Lost Its Way

It should be pointed out that of the 5 members of the Board 2 generally don't show up for meetings. Residents even had to push for a workshop on residential advanced wastewater treatment option well in advance of any decision on the option the LOCSD plans to have residentsvote on this year. - Previously they had scheduled it right before a finale decision. - That meeting will happen tomorrow at 6:30pm at St Mark's In-The-Valley. People can attend the workshop in person or by Zoom. For more information check out the agenda at: https://www.losolivoscsd.com/

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