Time for a Change

By Bob Hazard   |   November 1, 2018

Montecito voters will have a rare opportunity to elect two of five Montecito Sanitary District (MSD) Board members this year in a classic contest between appointed incumbents who have already held their board seats for up to 12 years and an exceptionally competent team of challengers who offer new ideas and a solid plan for implementing locally controlled, drought-free solutions for a more secure water future.

The incumbent candidates, Judith Ishkanian and Bob Williams, have never faced an election or public accountability. The challengers, Woody Barrett, a geologist, and Dana Newquist, a man with a rich history of community leadership, are running as members of the Water Security Team. All four candidates are community-minded people, so how can voters make an intelligent choice? 

The answer is simple. Study the facts and decide which candidates will do what is best for a community faced with the threat of continued drought and a shortage of State water. 

The Case for the Incumbents

The incumbents believe they have done a good job, despite the fact that the Montecito Sanitary District still dumps 500,000 gallons of treated wastewater into the ocean off Butterfly Beach each day, rather than reusing it for thirsty landscaping. When asked why they have not recycled this water, at least for irrigation use, they shrug their shoulders, claim that recycling is not their job and relentlessly blame the Montecito Water District for a lack of cooperation. 

The Question of Treated Wastewater

Wastewater can be treated to one of three levels before ocean discharge: Secondary, which is the minimum allowed under State law and the level selected by the Montecito Sanitary District. This treatment level does the basics and nothing more. It removes solids and adds chemicals to meet state standards before releasing the water to the ocean.

Tertiary treatment, the level selected by Summerland Sanitary and Goleta Sanitary is cleaner, of higher quality, and can be used for landscaping in lieu of ocean dumping.  The City of Santa Barbara and Carpinteria have announced plans to increase their treatment levels to produce “reclaimed water” at a higher treatment level, probably tertiary or advanced level. 

The so-called Gold Standard, or advanced wastewater treatment, has been adopted by Orange County and an increasing number of wastewater treatment plants in Silicon Valley and around the world. Advanced treatment processes – microfiltration, reverse osmosis, and ultraviolet light (UV) – turn wastewater into a purified drinking source. Communities such as Riverside have already converted to advanced wastewater treatment for indirect potable reuse and, when permitted by California law, direct potable use. Anything less than the Gold Standard is by definition “partially treated.”

Millions of dollars in state grants have funded sanitary district efforts all over California to rebuild traditional wastewater plants into recycling plants. But not in Montecito, which does not meet the basic requirements to apply for state funding – no joint strategic plan and no collaboration between the Sanitary and Water districts.

The Oxnard Advanced Water Purification Facility was completed in June 2014, combining wastewater recycling and reuse to produce 6.25 million gallons per day of treated wastewater. It was partially funded by a $20-million grant from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation based on “improving the water supply and water conservation.” Where was Montecito Sanitary District? In line for federal funding with a plan, or still squabbling with Montecito Water District over control of its fiefdom?

Lack of Strategic Planning

The incumbents at Montecito Sanitary are well-intentioned but not forward-thinking. Goleta’s recycling plan, for example, includes protection of local groundwater and recycling. Santa Barbara’s plan includes desalination, recycling, and groundwater management. Carpinteria is taking aggressive steps to replenish its aquifers by injecting its wastewater into its basins for reuse.  The current Montecito Sanitary plan, crafted 14 years ago, is to keep doing what it has always done. 

The Case for the Challengers

We can no longer depend upon the sources of water that have sustained us for decades. Barrett and Newquist favor inter-agency collaboration and long-term cooperation between the various Water and Sanitary districts on the South Coast in the use of recycled water, desalination, effective groundwater management, responsible conservation, and environmental stewardship.

Montecito has a clear choice: vote for the status quo, or vote for the two challengers with new ideas. My choice is obvious, and I hope you will join me in choosing the two challengers, Woody Barrett and Dana Newquist, to the new Montecito Sanitary Board.


You might also be interested in...