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PUBLIC SEWER SYSTEMS: Coastal California Town Considers Recall of Sewer System Backers

Associated Press, Sept. 27, 2005



LOS OSOS, Calif. - The fate of a costly project to bring a modern sewer system to this small Central Coast town was at stake Tuesday as three local officials who back the plan faced a recall election.

The problem stems from the town's failure to replace home septic tanks as it grew from a post-World War II retreat to a 15,000-person bedroom community of San Luis Obispo, located nearly midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Signs for and against the $135 million sewer project line the streets and dirt roads, and protesters include a local artist who has done a series of paintings depicting an ominous "sewer dragon."

The regional water quality control board ordered Los Osos to replace septic systems two decades ago, saying the tanks pollute the groundwater supply and the picturesque Morro Bay Estuary.

Since then, projected costs of the sewage solution have more than tripled as townspeople debated what to do.

The Los Osos Community Services District - founded in 1998 to deal with the problem - has started building a sewage treatment plant near what many consider the town's center, near homes, a library and a community center.

Project planners insist it has been engineered to avoid odors, but many residents aren't so sure. They advocate a system of open ponds in another location.

Opponents gathered enough signatures to hold a recall election against community services board directors Stan Gustafson, Gordon Hensley, and Richard LeGros, and hope to replace them with a slate of anti-sewer candidates who will halt the project and start a new one.

Connecting to the sewer line would cost homeowners roughly $1,000 to $4,000 each, and sewage costs for buildings would be near $200 a month, said Michael Drake, a spokesman for the district.

Critics say the costs would force some residents to move.

But stopping the project could result in fines of $10,000 a day from the regional water quality control board, Drake said. The district has already received more than $6 million of a $135 million state loan for the project and spent an additional $20 million on design, studies and land, he said.

http://www.montereyherald.com/mld/montereyherald/news/12751570.htm



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