By Susan Bohrer-Todd, Commentary, Napa Valley Register, 10/30/13
The Napa Register articles concerning the recycled water pipeline for the Coombsville/MST basin leave out important information that was stated in the County EIR Draft Addendum, which came out in February 2013. This addendum is a 122-page booklet and can be downloaded from the county website. It includes:
1. expansion of the project to include 17 miles of pipeline (page 8, 1.6 Overview of the Proposed Project); (Editor’s note: The pipeline to Napa State Hospital and length to Imola Avenue have already been completed.)
2. an extension of the pipeline to the Tulocay Cemetery within the city limits (page 5, 1.2 Overview and Proposed Action);
3. the addition of five booster pump stations (page 8, 1.6 overview and proposed action); and
4. minimum distance requirements for use of treated water near domestic groundwater wells (page 24, 3.3 Groundwater).
In addition, there is an outreach by the Groundwater Resources Advisory Committee (GRAC) to study how surface water affects the groundwater, as reported in the Register on April 3 (“County wants to tap wells for information”).
The pipeline route, as reported in the Register for the last four years, has been 5 miles, not the 17 miles that are stated in the draft addendum. The inclusion of Tulocay Cemetery is confusing, since it is not even in the MST Basin boundaries as determined by the USGS. The Register has reported only one pump station, not five as reported in the draft addendum. The project development is scheduled to occur in three phases.
The financing for the project will be accomplished by a legal vehicle known as the Mello-Roos Community Facilities Act. This act, created in 1985, raises property taxes and circumvents Proposition 13. It is complicated, hard to understand, and once in place, it can be changed at any time allowing property taxes to be raised as deemed necessary.
Also, anyone within the community facilities district (the area served by the pipeline) may be required to pay in the future, even if they are not hooked up to the pipeline. Those pushing the project from the very beginning have stated everyone benefits and everyone should pay (a highly debatable precept). (Editor’s note: The “everyone pays” model was abandoned by the county. The district is set up so that individual parcels can annex in the future if they want to, but it is voluntary.)
There has been an outreach by the newly developed GRAC to ask residents to volunteer their wells to be monitored in order to discern how surface water affects groundwater (“County wants to tap wells for information”). With the recycled water pipe delivering the treated sewer water already installed up to Skyline Park, many wonder why is this only now being studied?
If the project goes through and hundreds of residents begin to use the treated wastewater for landscaping, it’s possible that water could contaminate the groundwater through the wells that reach deep into the aquifer.
The environmental impact report mandates the treated wastewater must be kept 50 feet from wells unless drastic mitigation measures are taken in the well infrastructure. So, although the water has been used for decades on industrial park landscaping, never has it been used in an area so peppered with wells that are potential shunts deep into the aquifer.
This project is still going forward, even though it could be the end of drinkable well water in Coombsville.
A respected arborist and columnist for the Napa Register, Bill Pramuk, reported in the Register on Oct. 5 that the recycled sewer water will kill established coast redwoods within two years after beginning irrigation with recycled water (“Redwoods and recycled water”). Other people have reported on the sickly, stunted look of trees watered with the treated wastewater.
With Silverado Country Club refusing the recycled water and continuing to drill new wells to water its two professional golf courses and fill dozens of lakes and ponds; and with new vineyards and wineries going in all the time, this project will neither stop nor slow the groundwater overdraft.
This poorly thought out and implemented project will, at best, do nothing to help the water situation, and, at worst, cause crushing debt to some homeowners and possibly contaminate what is left of the groundwater supply.
Bohrer-Todd lives in Napa.