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City of Grass Valley Faces Wastewater Discharge Fines

The City of Grass Valley received notice today from the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board that its staff recommends the Board impose a fine on the City of Grass Valley in the amount of $110,850 as a result of accidental discharges from the City’s sanitary sewer system.   The fine, in the form of an Administrative Civil Liability (ACL) complaint, alleges violation of the City’s permit to operate its sewer system under the federal Clean Water Act and the California Water Code.  The amount of the recommended fine was determined according to the State’s enforcement procedures but is not final and will be subject to further discussions between the Regional Board and the City.

Mayor Jan Arbuckle said:  “The City regrets these incidents and is working hard to bring our century-old sewer system up to current environmental standards. The City is committed to protecting the environment and public health and safety and managing an effective, efficient, and environmentally-sensitive sanitary sewer system.”

The City has worked cooperatively with Central Valley Water Board staff including meeting its staff on two occasions to discuss the incidents and self-reported both incidents to the Board.  The City will consider its options in responding to the ACL complaint at the July 17, 2012 City Council meeting.  The City welcomes public input at that meeting.

The accidental discharges in question occurred during four events (one in October 2011 and three in March 2012) that resulted in the release of 71,150 gallons to Wolf Creek.  The discharge in October 2011 was caused by a power failure at a sanitary sewer system lift station during reconstruction of that lift station.  A lift station pumps sewage from relatively low areas of the City to the wastewater treatment plant or to gravity sewers lines which flow to that plant.  The discharges in March 2012 were caused by very heavy rainfall (12 inches in 4 days) which overwhelmed the sanitary sewer system even after the City took extraordinary measures, including use of a fire pumper engine to move water into available storage.

The City must advise the Central Valley Water Board of its response by August 6, 2012.  A public hearing on the ACL is currently scheduled for October 3-5, 2012 at the Rancho Cordova offices of the Central Valley Water Board but, as may be likely, that hearing will not occur if the City reaches a settlement with the Board. If so, the Board may agree that a portion of the fine can be used for upgrades to the City’s sewer treatment system or for environmental mitigation projects in Grass Valley. This action would reduce the actual fine paid, allowing the City to invest funds in the sewer system.


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