EL CENTRO – The Imperial County Board of Supervisors agreed to assist the Niland Sanitary District (NSD) with loans after the agency has been found out of compliance with state water quality guidelines since 2009. The board approved a $934,753 loan contingent upon implementation of updated sewer rates, additional negotiations with the Regional Water Quality Control Board to lower the fines against the agency, and revision of the penalties owed to CalPERS.
On January 22, 2009, the Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB) issued a Cease & Desist Order to the Niland Sanitary District (NSD) demanding it stop discharging waste in violation of its November 2008 discharge permit and prepare a pollution prevention plan by December 2010.
In November 2009, NSD requested an extension to comply with the order by December 2011. In March 2012, NSD requested a second extension to comply by August 2016. In September 2012, RWQCB issued a second order to the agency with a new compliance deadline of December 31, 2016.
As of now, NSD has failed to meet the new compliance deadlines resulting in a $4,575,000 penalty from the RWQCB. However, after negotiations, quality control board agreed to lower that amount to $478,03.33 which includes $220,000 in mandatory penalties and $478,103.33 in discretionary penalties.
As a solution, NSD is in the process to secure funding of $5,813,600 in grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and North American Development Bank (NADB) to pay for bringing the wastewater facility into compliance. However, in order to secure these funds, NSD must make the necessary improvements to the facility and be in compliance with a total cost of $683,650. This amount is reimbursable by USDA when construction begins.
Additionally, in order to obtain funding, resolution of all financial liabilities are required by the USDA.
The Niland Sanitary District separated from CalPERS on November 1, 2016, and currently owes CalPERS $118,000 in addition to $133,103 in penalty payments per settlement agreements. In summary, NSD requested $934,753 from the county board of supervisors to resolve the Niland Sanitary District issues to which the board approved with a 5-0 vote.
In order to pay back the loan, residents will see a water-rate increase of approximately $65.62 per month, per household, for a total of 30 years. According to Esperanza Colio-Warren, the Imperial County Community and Economic Development manager, there are approximately 530 water connections for the area.
“The Rural Community Assistance Corporation (RCRC) prepared a rate study to finance the compliance projects and provide sufficient revenue for the operation and maintenance of the waste water treatment plant,” said Colio-Warren.
Furthermore, the board voted unanimously to approve a memorandum of understanding authorizing the County of Imperial to provide technical assistance to the Palo Verde water district for future grant applications and project implementations, in particular, its potable drinking water system and its potential wastewater infrastructure.