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June 23, 2010     Feather River Bulletin
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Plumas County Grand Jury Report Page 8 used in the 2007 treatment. Also in 2008, the EHD received Department of Public Health accreditation for water quality testing. The EHD offers certified water quality analysis for coliform bacteria and E. coll. The EHD's Annual Report for 2008 goes on to say that this service supplements the nearest private lab- oratory options in Chico or Reno. It is available for wells, springs, or surface water, making the analyses useful for routine water quality checks for private sources or to help pinpoint contamination problems with public water systems. Within the permitting process for wells and septic sys- tems, the EHD insures that wells are at least 50 feet from a septic tank, and at least 100 feet from leach lines. After permitting for wells and septic systems for individual private connections, there is no monitoring by the EHD. If there are problems, the EHD will act in a consulting manner to help correct the problem, but there is no county or state requirement for monitor- ing. There is also no requirement for periodic pump- ing of septic tanks. The EHD has recommendations and flyers that encourage pumping every 3-5 years, but there are no recommendations to make it mandatory. With septic systems that feed into a common leach field, the threshold for installation requirement goes up. With 2 Connections the threshold goes higher, and when it reaches 5, the Regional Water Control Board takes over the permitting process and perhaps ongo- ing monitoring. With individual private wells, for the permit process, the individual will do well to follow the information in the County's "Well Manual--Information on the Well Installation and Permit Process." It mentions water supply that meets the ground water well standards, where to locate it, the type of material to use in drilling, how to put on a sanitary seal, and other such things. The individual submits an application which, when completed, spells out what the person wants to do. The application then goes to the EHD, and if it is complete, they have a set of administrative standards to meet, standards that consider the well's distance from septic tanks and leach fields, and how far wells can be from creeks, rivers, and lakes. If the individual can meet the various criteria, the EHD issues the permit. A community well is one that is used by several units like a resort or campground. There is a one stop permit- ting agreement with the Building Department and behind the scenes various county agencies look at their piece of the process. Once the application reaches the EHD, permitting is basically an administrative process. With a development, permitting depends on the size of the development, the density, and the developer's proposal. Approval depends on the county's general plan and the zoning requirements. If a development is proposed in a "prime opportunity" area, the devel- oper will have to connect to a community water sys- tem. In this case the developer will need a "Will Serve" letter from the district, stating that the com- munity system has the quantity and quality of water to meet their needs. The developer will get their "Will Serve" letter which satisfies the water needs for the development. Depending on the number of connections of the devel- opment, the criteria for permitting and approval gets more stringent. If the development is 5 or more con- nections, it becomes a classification called a "State Sman Water System." The EHD refers to those stan- dards to determine what infrastructure is needed. It would become more sophisticated with more chemi- cal monitoring and other things. The next higher threshold is 15 or more connections, and each time the criteria for approval gets more involved. The EHD is the regulatory body of develop- ments with up to 199 connections. At 200 connections it falls under the jurisdiction of the California Department of Health. If the development is proposed for over 200 connections, the EHD will administer and monitor the development until 200 connections are made. With a "new" development of over 200 connec- tions, the EHD would function as the local liaison with- out any further involvement in the decision making process. They would field questions by the developer and try to connect them with the state, but they wouldn't have direct responsibilities for the development other than seeing that the reports were fried and that some of the conditions put upon the development are in place. With developments over 200 connections, the approval process starts with the Plumas County Planning Department. When the developer starts to develop property, the Planning Department looks at all the issues. They will look at traffic, air quality, water supply and liquid waste, all items under the California Environmental Quality Act. The Planning Department is the hub that supplies these coordinat- ing services. The water supply is just one stroke. The ultimate responsibility, authority, and jurisdiction are under the California Department of Health. The parties work directly with the Planning Department. Any comment the EHD would make would be indicat- ing that the development is under the jurisdiction of the California Department of Health. The Planning Department has the responsibility to com- pile all of the process into the Environmental Impact Report, distributed for public comment. The document must then be approved by the Planning Department with any additional conditions required for approval. The EHD is not involved with the original permitting and approval process for these large water systems. However, once all the planning and all the agreements 1 are satisfied, then the EHD is the local permitting agency and the responsible agency for enforcement of state regulations for that system, from 15 to 199 connec- tions until it goes beyond that number, despite the fact 2 that they have no input during the approval process. The EHD gets concurrence from the California Department of Health, drawing from the state's expertise when nec- essary. The EHD relies on information from the hydrolo- gist, for the kind of pump tests, the duration, and quail- 3 tative issues, referring to the California Department of Health when there are questions. Procedure: The Grand Jury obtained information about the Environmental Health Division from the 2008 General Fund Budget publication. We also have the Plnmas County Public Health Agency Environmental Health Division Annual Report for 2008. There is much infor- mation about the EHD and its program on their web site (www.countyofplumas.com/publichealth/envhealth). The EHD's Director has supplied manuals and informa- tion pamphlets about water wells and septic systems installations and permitting processes. The Grand Jury has obtained much information by interviewing the EHD Director about the approval process fur wells and septic systems, and the kind of oversight and control the EHD has or doesn't have over the existence and life of such projects. The Grand Jury has also obtained information from interviews with the Directors of both the County Planning and Building Departments and took time to question the Director of the Plumas County Flood Control and Water Conservation District to learn how his organization affects Plumas County water. The Grand Jury wants to determine the effective- ness of the EHD's involvement in keeping our county's domestic water safe, and assuring that informed judg- ments are made in determining if there is sufficient water supply for individual and development needs. Conclusion: The Grand Jury wishes to express its appreciation to the Director and staff of the Environmental Health Division for their cooperation in our investigation. The EHD has charge of many programs, all related to the health and safety of County citizens. As we all look to our county's future and "where we are going," the Environmental Health Division must take on this Grand Jury's role as "watch dog" to pro- tect and sustain those qualities of life that make Plumas County such a desirable place to live. Frightening Realities About Fire in Plumas County Introduction: The 2009-2010 Plumas County Grand Jury began its investigation of fire fighting services in Plumas County as a result of statements made by its guest speakers. Even at preliminary stages of the investi- gation, it became frighteningly apparent that there are many layers to this "onion" and they stink. The Grand Jury urges all citizens to read this report and contact your government officials to demand they act now. The issues are multiple and the solutions range from simple to complicated. This Grand Jury chose to report only those issues that show severe and imme- diate need: There are no fire protection services for one fifth of the homes and parcels in Plumas County. Is your property at risk? See Fire Services Section. Plumas County government leaders have failed to protect the citizens of Plumas County by not tak- ing steps to remedy the lack of fire protection. See Board of Supervisors Section. There are no State fire fighting units in Plumas County. This situation has left us at risk for cata- strophic fires. See Fire Services, CAL FIRE section. The Board of Supervisors has not acted on the advice of its own Emergency Services Advisory Committee. See Board of Supervisors Section. Plumas County government leaders have been approving land development without adequate fire fighting services and there are no assurances it will stop. See Development Section. The Grand Jury decided to organize and simplify this rather complex and lengthy report for the general pub- lic. We purposely left out many technical terms and inserted commonly known or easily understood names.