▸ Government body: Sewer Authority Mid-coastside Board of Directors
Time and date: 7 p.m., Sept. 12
Members present: Deborah Ruddock, Matthew Clark, Kathryn Slater-Carter, Barbara Dye, Deborah Penrose, Ric Lohman
Public comment: Granada Community Services District Assistant General Manager Delia Comito, speaking as a member of the public, addressed her monthslong effort to obtain expense reports for disbursements for November 2020 and copies of SAM credit card statements for fiscal year 2021-22. Comito said she only raised her issues with SAM’s compliance at a GCSD meeting because it felt like the “only vehicle that I had to bring attention to a situation that greatly affected me and my work.”
She said the request was simple, should have been routine and was blown into an ordeal. She said she wasn’t nitpicking expenses or trying to embarrass SAM employees. Rather, she said she wanted to promote transparency by highlighting the use of public funds. “No agency is an exception, and there is no justification for the expenditures that I found that are taking place,” she said.
Public records: Shortly after Comito’s comment, the board adopted a new public records policy. SAM’s legal counsel Jeremy Jungreis said the prior policy was “pretty bare bones.” He noted the new policy is standard.
Going forward, SAM member agencies would not be charged the per-page fee assessed to members of the public. It also incorporates a ruling from the California Supreme Court that requires public officials to disclose records even if they are used through personal or private accounts.
“If it’s for agency official business, whether you’re doing it on your Gmail account or official agency account, it’s still public business and subject to a public records act,” he said. The policy allows directors and employees to certify whether their devices have been checked for records, creating a “paper trail for SAM to comply with the public records act,” Jungreis said.
Big basin: The board agreed to pay a contractor $138,050 to install a fourth aeration basin at its wastewater treatment plant. Last month the board agreed to contract with Environmental Dynamics International for the work. SAM has already budgeted $416,000 from last fiscal year for this project. The basin is used to offset abnormally high biochemical oxygen demand levels at the plant, which were discovered two years ago.
Board minutes: The board adopted a new policy to review and approve its meeting minutes. Prathivadi said SAM never had a formal policy. The move essentially formalizes its current practice.
Power shut-off: During the heat wave that strained California’s power grid recently, SAM participated in a Mandatory Demand Response Dispatch organized by PG&E that required the sewer authority to briefly shut down power at all facilities, including the wastewater treatment plant and three pump stations. Prathivadi said staff worked hard before and after the shut-off and “played a huge role” in keeping the lights on.
Dive time: SAM’s treated water is pumped through a pipeline into the ocean. The sewer agency pays a dive team to annually inspect the outfall and a submerged, multiport diffuser located approximately 1,900 feet offshore. There are 35 in total. A team recently inspected equipment and found that several diffusers on the pipeline were damaged and in need of replacement. The board unanimously agreed to pay Global Diving and Salvage $132,000 to excavate the area around the rubber diffusers and replace 13 damaged ones about 40 feet below the surface.
EPA proposal: The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed to list two widely used chemicals, known as PFAS and PFOS, as hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act. Federal regulators say this change is meant to increase transparency around releases of these harmful chemicals and help to hold polluters accountable for cleaning contamination. However, SAM’s counsel Jeremy Jungreis noted this could have consequences for the sewer district as it could “give teeth” to require agencies to monitor and clean up these chemicals. Jungreis said that even though SAM has an ocean outfall, some chemicals could still cause problems, particularly for sludge disposal.
— August Howell