Nevada City hit with proposed $69K fine |

Nevada City hit with proposed $69K fine

Nevada City has been socked with a proposed fine of $69,000 for 41 violations of the state’s environmental standards at its wastewater treatment plant, an ongoing problem throughout the county.

The City Council received notice of the proposed fine ” dating back eight years ” at Wednesday night’s meeting and has until Sept. 17 to respond to the state.

“I didn’t know they were going to go back that far,” said City Manager Gene Albaugh, referring to the fine.

The proposed penalty illustrates the growing problem of treating wastewater in rural counties amid tighter clean-water regulations.

The low population base of rural areas poses an added challenge, because it is harder to finance costly plant upgrades with residential rate increases. Sewage rates for some local communities are among the highest in the state.

The bulk of Nevada City’s violations were reported before the city’s treatment plant was upgraded last year. They include exceeding daily limits for solids in the wastewater, coliform levels and elevated pH levels.

Of the 41 violations, 23 are subject to penalties. A report from the state agency notes that the city incurred nine serious violations and 14 non-serious ones, which each carry a $3,000 fine, between 2000 and 2008.

Nevada City could receive a lower fine if they meet certain qualifications, said Wendy Wyels, environmental project manager for the Regional Water Quality Control Board.

The city would have to show documented improvements from upgrading their facility or a financial hardship to get the fine reduced, Wyels added.

In recent years, governments throughout Nevada County have faced fines for violations at wastewater treatment plants.

In May, the water quality control board ordered the county to pay fines up to $700,000 for violations at its Cascade Shores wastewater treatment plant dating to 2000.

Further negotiations have pared the fines, and the money can be spent on the pending replacement of the water treatment plant, destroyed by a landslide in May 2005.

The county also is facing penalties of $303,000 from alleged violations at the Lake Wildwood sewage treatment plant. In this case, the state won’t let officials apply the fines to any plant upgrades, because the area does not qualify as one with financial hardships, according to the Regional Water Quality Control Board.

To contact Staff Writer David Mirhadi, e-mail or call 477-4239.

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