By Karen Everett Watson
City Council members voted unanimously to approve funds to pay the California Regional Quality Control Board (RWQCB) penalty for the November 2018, 300,000-gallon sewage spill, which began at the Live Oak Lift Station located in the county. According to the notification sent by the city to CIWQS, which is the state water board, a storm event caused the power failure and caused all four sewage pumps to “trip out.” The alarm system also failed to notify the on-call operator, which allowed the spill to continue until the morning. The sewage spilled from a manhole pump station. The vote came at the teleconferenced meeting of the City Council on April 7.
Four months after the spill, no public notification had been made by the Galt City Council, City Manager Eugene Palazzo or Director of Public Works Steven Winkler, even though homes were located within a few hundred feet of the manhole where raw sewage spilled, and the protocol from the state water board requires “adequate notification” to residents that could be affected. Deputy Director of Public Works Mark Clarkson said he had signs posted at Midway and at Christensen roads but did not contact any residents. At the time of the spill, the city council consisted of Lori Heuer, Curt Campion, Paige Lampson, Mark Crews and Tom Malson.
“I was there on site,” said Clarkson, who responded by phone on March 6, 2019. “It was a major storm event so the sewage was diluted by the rainwater. It had already gone through the old wastewater treatment plant. I knew it (sewage water) was probably a mile down the road. I sent two crewmembers to pick up any waste they could in the ditches. There wasn’t anything to pick up.”
The original fine was for $110,000, but half that amount was waived when the city of Galt agreed to complete a Compliance Action Project, installing a separate phone line and Smart Cover System so spills could be immediately addressed. Current Director of Public Works Michael Selling gave a complete report on the incident that happened during a major storm and power outage.
Vice Mayor Rich Lozano asked Selling how much the fine might have been.
“It could have been $3 million in fines,” Selling said.
Selling introduced Will Kempton, the executive director of the Sacramento Transportation Authority, who asked council to approve an expenditure plan that would be used if the public approves a ballot measure for a new .05-cent tax in November. Kempton said four of the seven county cities would have to approve the expenditure plan. The ballot would have to be approved by two-thirds of the voters. Kempton said it would bring $8.4 billion over the next 40 years and over $106 million to the city of Galt for road maintenance, improvements and transit projects.
“The Board of Supervisors approved it this morning (April 7),” Kempton said.
Council members approved the expenditure plan 4-1 with Lozano voting “no.”
Council member Farmer reported on the video-call of the Sacramento Library Authority for which he is a city representative. He said the authority decided to close all county libraries, but they will continue to pay staff for the next few weeks.
Interim City Manager Tom Haglund asked council to approve a new agreement with Willdan Financial Services. Halund said staff has been working on developing Community Facility Districts (CFD), which would require funding from developers and residents in new project areas. New developments would be taxed for their CFD, instead of Lighting and Landscaping Districts, which currently bring in less than the cost of maintenance. Council approved moving forward with a new agreement with the financial service 5-0.