A bill that would set statewide regulations for individual septic systems in the coastal zone passed the Assembly last week in spite of objections by city officials.
While the city supports the purpose of AB 885 — protection of coastal waters from leaking or poorly functioning onsite sewage treatment systems — there is no consensus on what allowable levels of contaminants should be.
The bill, sponsored by 35th District Assemblywoman Hannah Beth Jackson, D-Ventura/Santa Barbara, and the California Association of Environmental Health Administrators, will now go to the state Senate.
According to legislative counsel analysis, the bill would require the state Department of Health Services to adopt by regulation statewide performance standards for all onsite sewage treatment systems within the coastal zone and to include specified provisions for prescribed inspections and enforcement by local agencies.
The legislative intent would encourage the State Water Resources Control Board to make prescribed loans to private-property owners who incur costs as a result of the implementation of the statewide performance standards. Compliance would be required no later than Jan. 1, 2003, or three years from the date of adoption, whichever is earlier.
Opponents say the major problem is in the numbers given for maximum contaminant levels — less than 240,000 mpn total coliform bacteria, 2.2 mpn for fecal coliform bacteria counts and 10 ppm or mg/L for nitrates.
Environmental Health Specialist Larry Young and Senior Building Inspector Craig George, who went to Sacramento for discussions with the bill’s author earlier this month, say the total count is too high, the fecal count is too low and the nitrate level is about right.
Even Heal the Bay Director Mark Gold, a solid supporter of the bill, agreed the numbers were skewed.
City lobbyist Anthony Gonzales was hoping for amendments to the bill while it was still in committee. Gold said the bill might be passed by the Assembly and the Senate without the inclusion of specific numbers, which could be added by regulators afterward.