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The Graton and Occidental septic districts are visible west of Sebastopol.
The Graton and Occidental septic districts are visible west of Sebastopol.

A Neighborhood Weighs in on the Graton Community Services District

Feb 5, 2019

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By Stephanie Blumenthal

What is happening with the proposal to bringOccidental's wastewater to Graton for treatment?  I asked for input, and here is what some neighbors had to say. 

In December 2017, Graton Community Services District (GCSD) advised ratepayers by way of a newsletter that they had invited Occidental to join our sanitation district and have their wastewater trucked to the Graton treatment plant. (At present, Occidental's wastewater is ported through downtown Graton to the Sonoma County Airport for treatment--it would be hard to miss seeing and hearing these large tanker trucks as they make their way through town!) 

The GCSD stated that, "While not eliminating the eventual need to raise rates, this project can postpone that action and at least soften the impact when that happens." 

Unfortunately, because Sonoma County planning and parks departments did not consider the ramifications, the Joe Rodota Trail was allowed to be developed adjacent to our treatment plant, thereby creating safety and accessibility issues for large trucks.

GCSD subsequently proposed trucking Occidental's wastewater to a small lift station located at  3400 Ross Road, immediately adjacent to the Joe Rodota Trail and across from multiple residential properties. We were advised that these deliveries could occur from 5-15 times per day, 5 days a week (more in the event of emergency weather situations). 

The county's well and septic-environmental health districts

Neighbors near the lift station have been attending monthly GCSD meetings to express concerns about the use of this site to offload wastewater on a regular basis over a "temporary" term of 10 years. Among their concerns is that the wastewater would be offloaded into a hole within feet of a busy multi-use trail that is now part of our county park system.

They also have concerns about noise, odor and spill risks, wear and tear on an already degraded, narrow country road, dangers to pedestrians crossing near the post office and bus stop, and the impact on their quality of life and property values. GCSD gave verbal assurance that they would not proceed with something that was unsatisfactory.

Neighbors asked that an alternative site be chosen outside of town, and GCSD agreed to look into this. 

Three sites are under serious consideration:

1) Empire West Plastics at9270 Graton Road

2) Bridgeway Gas on4115 Gravenstein Hwy. N.

3) the lift station at 3400 Ross Road

However, GCSD has recently stated that Empire West's proposed fees for property access would be prohibitive for Occidental, and they have suggested that the additional couple of miles to truck wastewater to Bridgeway Gas versus the lift station site would add to gas costs.  An additional proposed site, Manzana Products, appears to be off the table. 

GCSD should prepare and present to the entire ratepayer community the following information:

1) complete site plan outlines and cost estimates for each;

2) overviews of what site improvements, lease and/or land acquisition fees would be required at each site;

3) specifics as to what costs Occidental will bear in exchange for Graton taking on this project; and

4) a reasonable idea of where our rates will be in 5 years and 10 years with the addition of this project. 

Sonoma County currently subsidizes Occidental's sanitation district, and has for some years, and they paid for two new tanker trucks to port Occidental's sewage to Graton. 

Graton ratepayers deserve priority over the County's and Occidental's preferences as to how and where this project proceeds, and Occidental should certainly have to pay the price for not solving its sanitation problems, which have existed for over two decades despite some viable solutions that were fought down by its own citizens.


THANK YOU Stephanie Blumenthal for helping gather is information for our community!

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