Grape growers could alleviate Occidental’s wastewater issues

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Occidental’s embattled wastewater treatment system needs a multimillion-dollar upgrade completed within three years, and nearby grape growers are likely part of the solution.

If that plan — expected to cost $5 million to $6 million and bump up rates for the sewer district’s roughly 100 customers — doesn’t work out, the small west county community’s wastewater might be trucked out of the area for treatment, officials said.

The proposed solution, including improvements to the existing treatment plant on Occidental Road and a pipeline carrying wastewater to a vineyard on Morelli Lane, will be reviewed at a public meeting at 6 p.m. Jan. 8 at the Union Hotel in Occidental.

Residents will have a chance to comment on the potential impacts of the project as part of the determination of whether it will require a full environmental impact report.

Because the proposed project would be on property already used by the system and on county roads, the county hopes to issue a “negative declaration” and avoid the time and expense of a full report, said Cordel Stillman, Sonoma County Water Agency chief deputy engineer.

Occidental’s system, one of eight operated by the Water Agency, faces a Jan. 31, 2018 state deadline to stop holding treated wastewater in a pond next to the treatment plant, used as a storage reservoir since 1977.

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