Environmental activist Erin Brockovich wrote on her Facebook page last week: “Monte Vista Water District in San Bernardino County, California took a bold step... getting out ahead of a real environmental problem.”
The Monte Vista Water District Board commissioned a feasibility study on Sept. 2 to replace hundreds of old septic tanks in the unincorporated area of Chino with a sewer system operated by the water district.
Sewage service would be a new area for Monte Vista Water District, which provides water services in Montclair and small pockets in northwest Chino.
The study will explore the provision of sewer service in the unincorporated portions of its service area.
Sewer service for most of Chino is provided by the city which allows connection only to annexed parcels that are consistent with its general plan.
A 2018 regional septic conversion feasibility study by the Inland Empire Utilities Agency found approximately 21,800 septic systems within the agency’s 242 square mile service area extending from Chino to Fontana. Spokesperson Kathy Besser said the study did not break up the region.
Speaking at the Sept. 1 Chino City Council meeting, a consultant for Monte District Water District said the area has several thousand septic tanks that have caused significant impairment to local ground water resources.
Councilmember Paul Rodriguez said, “Water is extremely important, not just for the residents but for human life. The water could be polluted, which is not good.”
Mr. Rodriguez said the residents in Flint, Michigan just settled a $600 million lawsuit with their city.
In response, Chino Mayor Eunice Ulloa said Flint was a different situation and the water from Monte Vista Water District was good quality.
The city council approved a letter to Monte Vista Water District supporting a new sewer system that was not at the expense of good development planning.
The mayor said the city is more than willing to extend sewer services as long as a landowner complies with its general plan, or the city council approves a zoning change consistent with the surrounding area.
Developer Borstein Enterprises, of the proposed Chino Francis Estates project, approached Monte Vista Water District about providing sewer services after the city council denied its project for conflicting with the general plan.
The water district's consultant said several developers had approached the county and the water district with the opportunity to use private funds to “kick start” the sewer connection project.
Councilmember Mark Hargrove said he supported private developers paying and his only concern was that it was not used as “an end around” for city zoning.
Mayor Ulloa said, “What’s being built right now is hodgepodge, which isn’t appropriate because we will eventually annex the area.”
After the area is annexed, the city will be responsible for its upkeep without receiving its fair share of revenue, which will be retained partially by the county, she said.
Chino’s General Plan is being updated with housing options, parks and other facilities. It includes the unincorporated area, which is in the city’s sphere of influence, but under county jurisdiction.
San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors chairman Curt Hagman, who represents the 4th District, wrote a letter to the Monte Vista Water District to support removing the septic tanks and providing sewer services.
The Monte Vista Water District said it will not consider planning and zoning considerations in its study.