Another Point of View: Water exporter aiming for sanitation district

By: Kerri Howell, Special to the Telegraph
-A +A
I have to respond to the debate generated by Supervisor Roberta MacGlashan’s column from Feb. 2 and Michael Boccadoro’s letter from Feb. 9. MacGlashan’s guest column was exactly on point. It was a fair and accurate assessment of what took place at the December meeting of the Regional Water Quality Control Board hearing on the Sacramento Regional County Sanitation District wastewater treatment plant permit. I do, however, take issue with Michael Boccadoro’s letter of Feb. 9. Boccadoro suggests that MacGlashan “has done a disservice to her constituents.” She did not do a disservice to anyone, her constituents or Telegraph readers — nor would she ever do such a thing. He asserts that MacGlashan’s comments that the permit is based upon “unproven hypothesis” is inaccurate, that “all regulatory agencies, outside of the (sanitation district) and their paid consultants, agree that these discharges are extremely harmful to the Delta food web”, and that “99 percent of ammonia discharged to the Delta” is from the sanitation district’s plant. He further states, “It’s hard to believe that MacGlashan could sit through 14 hours of testimony and still not understand the facts, but then again, she is an elected official.” Further, he signs his letter indicating that he represents Coalition for a Sustainable Delta, based in Sacramento. First, there were at least 14 hours of testimony, beginning at about 8:30 a.m., continuing until about 10:30 p.m., with approximately 30 minutes of discussion prior to the Regional Water Quality Control Board essentially going along with their staff’s recommendations. I was there for all of it. I completely agree that most of the requirements, and the most expensive requirements of the permit, are not based upon proven science. The sanitation district would concede that additional treatment is required. However, the sanitation district is being required to solve problems that do not even exist in the Sacramento River and to remove constituents that are not currently regulated. The sanitation district contributes 99 percent of the ammonia in the immediate vicinity of the outfall. However, the district is responsible for only approximately half of the ammonia that makes its way to the Delta, as there are other sources of ammonia and a lot of chemistry takes place between the outfall and the Delta. All agencies outside the sanitation district agree that the discharge is harmful? If they actually agreed or understood what is contributing to the problem, the district would not be required by the permit to perform scientific testing of a number of things that are not fully understood by the regulators. This is another example of sanitation district paying for the $2 billion dollar science experiment. What bothers me most about Boccadoro’s letter is his assertion that MacGlashan does not understand the issues because she is an elected official and that the district is the only agency with paid consultants. The district gave testimony from both consultants and our own highly qualified technical staff of scientists and engineers. We heard no such testimony from any technical staff of any of the water exporters, yet we heard from many consultants being paid by the water exporters — most notably Mr. Boccadoro. He is the president of the Dolphin Group, a political consulting and lobbying firm that represents the major water exporters from Southern California. Coalition for a Sustainable Delta, though it appears to be an environmental group, is the creation of Boccadoro to influence public opinion. MacGlashan is well aware of all facets of this issue. Boccadoro is being paid to paint the district as the bad apple because his clients want to move the point of water export from the Delta to a location immediately south of the district’s outfall. Though there is no scientific reason not to export the water from just downstream of the plant, the water exporters do not want to have to explain to their customers why they are exporting water just downstream from a wastewater plant — a public perception problem, not valid science. Boccadoro is a hired gun who not only does not understand the science, but was most likely paid to write his letter to the Telegraph. Kerri M. Howell is a professional engineer licensed in California. She sits on the Folsom City Council and the board chair for the the Sacramento Regional County Sanitation District.