Bottom Line: The City had a December 31st deadline to (1) initiate a discussion regarding the allegations and (2) set a date for a site visit. CalRiverWatch will have to stand in line behind the Beaumont-Cherry Valley Water District.
Excerpts From River Watch Report:
Beaumont’s aging collection system has historically experienced high Iil during wet weather. Sixty percent (60%) of the sewer lines were constructed prior to 1935. Forfy” percent (40%) were constructed prior to 2AV .
Structural defects which allow I/I into the sewer lines result in a buildup ofpressure which causes SSOs. Overflows caused by blockages and I/I result in the discharge of raw sewage into gutters, canals, and storm drains which are connected to adjacent surface waters - all waters of the United States.
As recorded in CIWQS Public SSO Reports, Beaumont’s collection system has experienced at least thirteen (13) SSOs between March 12,2009 and September 22,2011, with a combined volume of at least 353.727 gallons -221,1 60 gallons of which were reported as having reached surface waters.
Exfiltration caused by pipeline cracks and other structural defects in the collection system result in discharges to adjacent surface waters via underground hydrological connections. Beaumont’s internal reports indicate discharges to surface waters not reported to the California Integrated Water Quality System (“CIWQS”).
Because the entire system has not been adequately inspected by means of closed circuit television (“CCTV”), Beaumont has insufficient informationfor a significant portion of the collection system concerning its condition or the extent of exfiltration.
These sections of the system are old and in need of repair. Untreated sewage is discharged from cracks, displaced joints, eroded segments, etc., into ground water hydrologically connected to surface waters. Evidence indicates extensive exfiltration from lines within 200 feet of a surface water.
River Watch alleges that such discharges are continuous wherever aging, damaged, and/or structurally defective sewer lines in Beaumont’s collection system are located adjacent to surface waters, including tributaries of both the Salton Sea and the Santa Ana River Basin.
Surface waters and ground water become contaminated with fecal coliform, exposing people to pathogens. Chronic failures in the collection system pose a substantial threat to public health.
Studies tracing human markers specific to the human digestive system in surface waters adjacent to defective sewer lines have verified the contamination of the adjacent waters with untreated sewage.
Evidence of exfiltration can be found in mass balance data or “inflow and infiltration” (“I/I”) data, video inspection, and tests of waterways adjacent to sewer lines for nutrients, human pathogens and other human markers such as caffeine. Exfiltration from Beaumont’s collection system is a daily occurrence and a violation of Beaumont’s NPDES Permit and the CWA.
Discharges to Surface Waters.
River Watch’s expert believes that many of the SSOs reported by Beaumont as having been contained without reaching a surface water did in fact discharge to surface waters, and those reported as partially reaching surface waters did so in greater volume than stated.
The claim of full containment is further called into question by the fact that some of Beaumont’s SSO Reports state the estimated start time of the SSO as the time when the reporting party first noticed the SSO.
Studies have shown that most SSOs are noticed significantly after they have begun. Beaumont reports that some of the discharges reach a storm drain, but fails to determine the accurate amounts which reach a surface water.
River Watch’s expert has also determined that Beaumont’s method for estimating flow rate also underestimates the volume of a SSO. Furthermore, a review of the service records calls into question Beaumont’s methodologies for determining the volume of SSOs captured. Beaumont is a permittee under the Statewide General Requirements for Sanitary Server Systems, Waste Discharge Requirements Order No. 2006-0003-DWQ (“Statewide WDR”) governing the operation of sanitary sewer systems.
The Statewide WDR requires that sewer system operators report SSOs to the CIWQS and include in that reporting an estimate of the volume of any spill, the volume recovered and the volume which reached a surface water.
Beaumont’s field reports generally do not indicate what method was used to estimate the total volume of the spill, which further calls into question the estimates of volume recovered and volume reaching surface waters. River Watch contends that Beaumont is grossly underestimatingthe incidence and volume of SSOs that reach surface waters.
Beaumont also fails to adequately mitigate the impacts of SSOs. The Statewide WDR mandates that the permittee shall take all feasible steps to contain and mitigate the impacts of a SSO. The EPA’s ‘Report to Congress on the Impacts of SSOs’ identifies SSOs as a major source of microbial pathogens and oxygen depleting substances. Numerous critical habitat areas exist within the areas of Beaumont’s SSOs.
There is no record of Beaumont performing any analysis of the impacts of SSOs on critical habitat of protected species under the ESA, nor any evaluation of the measures needed to restore water bodies designated as critical habitat from the impacts of SSOs.
One of the most important remedial measures is the performance of adequate sampling to determine the nature and the impact of the release. As Beaumont is severely underestimating SSOs which reach surface waters, Beaumont is also not conducting sampling on most SSOs.
Order No. R8-2006-0003, IV. Effluent Limitations and Discharge Specifications,A. Effluent Limitations, 1. Final Effluent Limitations - Discharge Point No. M-001:
20 Effluent Discharges Exceeding the Permit Limit for Total Coliform:
15 Effluent Discharges Exceeding the Permit Limit for Turbidity Daily Maximum:
9 Effluent Discharges “not reaching” the permit limits for pH:
1 Effluent Discharge Exceeding the Permit Limits for Chloroform
Failure to Properly Monitor for Copper
Failure to Properly Monitor for Mercury
I Effluent Discharge on September 3, 2013 exceeding the Permit for Daily Average
River Watch has found nothing in the public record to demonstrate that Beaumont has monitored for and complied with these narrative standards. River Watch is understandably concerned regarding the effects of both surface and underground SSOs on critical habitat in and around tributary waters of both the Salton Sea and the Santa Ana River Basin.
3. The person or persons responsible for the alleged violation.
The entity responsible for the alleged violations identified in this Notice is the City of Beaumont, as the owner of the Beaumont Wastewater Treatment Plant No.1 and as the owner and operator of its associated collection system, and Urban Logic Consultants. Inc, the operator of the Beaumont Wastewater Treatment Plant No.l, collectively referred to as “Beaumont” in this Notice, as well as Beaumont’s employees responsible for compliance with Beaumont’s NPDES Permit.
The CWA specifically provides a 60-day “notice period” to promote resolution of disputes. River Watch strongly encourages Beaumont to contact River Watch within 20 days after receipt of this Notice Letter to: (1) initiate a discussion regarding the allegations detailed in this Notice, and(2) set a date for a site visit. In the absence of productive discussions to resolve this dispute, or receipt of additional information demonstrating that Beaumont is in compliance with the strict terms and conditions of its NPDES Permit, River Watch intends to file a citizen’s suit under CWA $ 505(a) when the 60-day notice period ends.