Russian River wastewater: Community meeting set regarding septic systems

Sonoma County officials are inviting the public to discuss possible solutions to address extensive government regulations that will soon require homeowners in Monte Rio and Villa Grande to make costly upgrades to their sewer systems to limit the amount of sewage entering the Russian River.

The meeting will be held on Saturday, June 29, from 10 a.m. to noon at the Monte Rio Community Center, 20488 Highway 116. The meeting will provide an opportunity to ask questions and share your suggestions on possible solutions with county officials.

The regulations, approved in December 2021 by the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, require property owners with septic tanks within 600 feet of the Russian River to limit waste to a certain maximum daily total. Inspections are also required for people who live near certain streams

If their equipment does not meet requirements – which is likely true for the majority of properties in Monte Rio and Villa Grande, where the systems were installed decades ago – they must take corrective action.

Possible solutions include modernizing existing sewage systems, creating community systems, or connecting to an existing sewage treatment plant via the sewer system.

The county is also exploring funding sources to help homeowners. A 2019 county estimate estimated that replacing the area's septic systems could cost between $81 million and $114 million over time.

The possible solutions are the result of a study by consulting engineers Brelje & Race, commissioned by the county in 2022, the Lower Russian Wastewater Citizens Advisory Group and an interagency team of government officials.

“Monte Rio/Villa Grande residents have long known that there are problems with the wastewater systems along the lower Russian River,” the county's Lower Russian River Wastewater Citizens Advisory Group wrote in a July 2023 message. “We have made many attempts to address this problem – all informative, none successful.”

Amie Windsor leads the community journalism team at The Press Democrat. Reach her at [email protected] or 707-521-5218.

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