River Talk

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I’m glad that Pacific Sun is covering this (“Crappy Creek,” Nov. 6). It has indeed been an issue for the Petaluma River for decades. It was bad when I got to town (1987) and started looking at the inadequacies and failures of our old wastewater treatment plant (WWTP). Surcharged sewer pipes overflowed to the river, all of which got worse with our major I&I (infiltration and inflows) problems from leaky collection and transmission pipes.

A Brown and Caldwell engineering report from ~1985 projected a $10 million fix to reduce I&I by over half, but that was not done at the time, since the council and city manager didn’t want to raise sewer fees to cover the costs. They also illegally diverted several million dollars of sewer connection fees from new housing to subsidize rates, instead of putting the money into WWTP capital funds.

RWQCB finally required a new WWTP—and thus was born the secret contracts to fully privatize a new WWTP with Waste Management / Wheelabrator with no bids or public hearings. That option was dumped after we challenged it at the CPUC, and the CPUC unanimously ruled against the city’s efforts to complete that secret and corrupt deal. Ten years later we had a new, advanced WWTP, operated and owned by the city, along with the wetlands polishing ponds and wildlife area adjacent to Shollenberger Park. Discharges of untreated or poorly treated wastewater were almost completely eliminated. Penngrove’s WWTP is still a problem.

A significant issue leading to the remaining concentrated contaminants is that during the dry part of the year, the Petaluma River is actually a slough—so that water never really is flushed out by runoff until it rains. Water is pushed back and forth by tidal action, but the flows necessary to actually send assorted contaminants downstream to the Bay don’t happen. While there is no excuse for contaminants reaching the river from polluted runoff and discharges in the first place, it does exacerbate the problems significantly in the dry season.

David Keller

Petaluma River Council

Via Pacificsun.com

Inoculate Your Homes

To prevent communities from being destroyed by wildfires, houses need to be fireproofed.

Normally we depend on the fire department to put out fires. Unfortunately, when wildfires are threatening our communities, the situation is too extreme for the fire departments to fight the inferno. That being the case, each house should be individually fireproofed.

Just as we inoculate people keep them from catching the flu and other serious illnesses, actions must be taken beforehand to prevent buildings from catching fire.

Three things are needed for the fireproofing:

1. Water 2. An installed sprinkler system to cover the house 3. A source of electricity to power the sprinkler system.

The supply of water should not depend on the public water system—since there would not be enough water for everybody, the system needs a cistern with enough capacity to spray over the whole structure.

Because the public electricity grid often goes down in major fires, a small electric generator is needed to power the sprinkler; the sprinkler system should be set up so that it can function by itself after being started (perhaps even starting itself if no one is around in a fire situation). An alternative to a generator would be a high-capacity electric battery.

This system would not be cheap, but would cost nothing compared to the cost of replacing the home, to say nothing of the lives lost. Lower insurance rates will help to pay for the ‘inoculation.’

Another benefit for society: If most buildings installed the fireproofing system, we’d have an innovative industry employing tens of thousands of highly paid skilled workers.

Lee Spiegel

Corte Madera

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