Sewage woes leave stench of frustration
Frustration was in abundance Tuesday as Cascade Shores residents and Nevada County supervisors set about to fix a sewage plant that isn’t broken.
Supervisors, acting as the board of directors of the county’s Sanitation District 1, voted unanimously to increase sewer fees by almost 100 percent for the approximately 80 homes hooked up to the Cascade Shores wastewater treatment plant. County officials said the increase – from $910 a year to $1,795 – was needed to operate the plant through the current and next fiscal year and to fund studies on how to meet new federal and state discharge requirements.
The wastewater plant was upgraded in 1996 for more than $2 million. While the county is seeking funding sources for more plant upgrades – estimated at $2.3 million – local officials can’t look to the state because it only gives out grants to address public health threats, said Michael Hill-Weld, county director of transportation and sanitation.
“Ironically, we have a plant that is working very well, so we don’t qualify,” Hill-Weld said.
Supervisor Sue Horn is working with U.S. Rep. John Doolittle’s office to funnel about $9 million in federal money into the county to finance the Cascade Shores and other wastewater upgrades. It will take at least a year before money for the first phase of work at Cascade Shores comes into the county, she said. Then the county will have to cover 25 percent of the costs.
“What is so frustrating is you have a 5-year-old plant that was built to (the state’s) standards,” Horne said. “What is being discharged into the stream is not polluting the stream.”
Several Cascade Shores residents said they favored pushing the state Regional Water Quality Control Board on the issue. Residents protested a previous fee hike last August under Proposition 218, which forces local governments to get majority approval in special districts before imposing taxes, fees and charges. The residents didn’t protest this time around because the plant’s operating budget would have run out in about a month, leaving the county vulnerable to legal action by the state.
Gordon Plantenga, the county’s wastewater operations manager, said the ultimate “doomsday scenario” if the county doesn’t comply could be the state “red-tagging” homes so they couldn’t be resold.
But whether through the increased rates – up to $150 a month – or state-levied fines, residents said they are bearing the costs.
“We’re talking about some people making this payment instead of feeding their kids,” Cascade Shores resident Dave Deardorf said.
Annette Murphy purchased her Cascade Shores home in 2000 thinking that it was served by a state-of-the-art sewage plant. With only a few years to go before she reaches retirement age, Murphy said she is worried.
“I will not be able to stay in my dream house … if this kind of thing continues to escalate.”
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