• May 18 Sewage Spill was a Disaster Averted

    The 220,000-gallon sewage spill which occurred Monday, May 18 was bad enough, but it could have been a lot worse. The accident occurred when a subcontractor was working on a bypass to enable staff to perform routine maintenance inside the pump station at 15th and Central in Pacific Grove.

    A discharge valve did not seal and the pump station quickly filled with wastewater.

    One choice PCA workers had at that point was to allow the wastewater to fill the pump station and destroy electrical components and pumping equipment, which would result in an extended outage, overflowing the pump station and allowing wastewater to flow down across the Rec Trail and into the ocean.The other choice was what the man on the spot did: Control the discharge through a pipe and allow it to be released into the ocean.

    The release began at 10:42 a.m. The “all clear” was given at 6:00 p.m. Clean-up continues today, as water inside the pump station is vacuumed out. But there’s no way to clean the bay.

    One question on most locals’ minds is “how long will the bay between Lovers Point and Hopkins Marine will be unsafe to use?” The answer, given that it all depends on Mother Nature, may be surprising. Paul Sciuto, Deputy General Manager of the MRWPCA, says it might even be safe by this weekend – Memorial Day weekend, when thousands of tourists will be in town. They have already taken seven tests and will continue sampling today and tomorrow, Wednesday.

    The pump station and equipment is 25 years old, but is maintained on a regular schedule. The PCA and other agencies will be looking into installing some sort of redundancy to prevent a recurrence.

    The cost at this juncture is unknown, says Sciuto, and he acknowledges that fines are possible. The costs, and the cost of any fines, will all be borne by the PCA, he said at a press conference on Tuesday.

    In the interim, agencies including the Regional Water Quality Control Board, Monterey County Environmental Health Department, NOAA, the City of Pacific Grove, Pacific Grove Public Works Department, Pacific Grove Police Department, Monterey County Fire Department and Marina Coast Water District were notified and lent assistance. Emergency calls were made to news media enlisting their help in notifying the public in Pacific Grove to curtail use of inside water, and a Reverse 9-1-1 notification went out.

    There will be continuing assessment and it is unknown how effective the notification was in minimizing water use. Effects on Sanctuary wildlife will not be know immediately, either, but short of bacterial problems, will hopefully be minimal.

    Officials including Sciuto, Public Works director Dan Gho, and Councilmember and PCA liaison Rudy Fischer indicate that the mishap should have no adverse effect on the Pacific Grove Small Water Project which involves sewer water and is still on schedule.

    Sciuto says he’s grateful it involved only residential sewage and not industrial chemicals. Citizens in Pacific Grove will be glad when the odor goes away.

    posted to Cedar Street Times on May 19, 2015

    Topics: Front PG News

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    This is the Heal the Bay Beach Report Card for Monterey Peninsula beaches, which reports water quality grades, or when relevant, weather advisories. An A to F grade is assigned based on the health risks of swimming or surfing at that location. Look at the "dry" grade for all days except those "wet" days during and within 3 days after a rainstorm. Click here for more information on the Beach Report Card. Click the name of the beach when it pops up for more details, or choose a beach below.

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