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PRESS RELEASE / ANNOUNCEMENTS Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Former SB County Director Merrifield Consulting for Heal the Ocean

Heal the Ocean announced last Monday that Rick Merrifield, former director of Santa Barbara County’s Environmental Health Services, is helping the organization as a consultant in the teamwork crafting of language for AB 885 – septic system regulations for the State of California.


AB 885 had been authored by former Assembly member Hannah-Beth Jackson in 1999, and regulations were supposed to have been finalized by 2004. The regulations stalled a number of times during a rough public hearing process that began in 2005, but the process repeatedly fell apart because of disagreements between stakeholders.

In February 2011, HTO and Heal the Bay, Santa Monica, filed a “friendly lawsuit” on the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) to nudge forward the establishing of regulations, and the two organizations have been in countless Sacramento workshops and teleconference meetings with State Board staff and State environmental health directors ever since.

The goal is adoption of AB 885 regulations on June 19, 2012.

HTO Executive Director Hillary Hauser said she called Merrifield in early May to help her organization navigate bureaucratic waters. “At the last minute, differences emerged between environmentalists, environmental health officers and State Board staff, “said Hauser. “I was hugely concerned we’d fail to find a common ground, and that we’d end up with something nobody was happy with, so I called Rick, who has a great understanding of all the angles – governmental as well as water quality.”

Hauser said it was of great benefit Merrifield had served on the State Board AB 885 steering committee as far back as 2005. “Rick provided HTO and Heal the Bay with a more informed voice, spoke the special language of environmental health directors, urged measures in the regulations to protect water quality, and mediated the differences between us all. He helped get the stakeholder’s final draft of AB885 to the State Board on May 11, 2012, one we could all accept.”

The State Water Board will now issue its final draft of AB 885 regulations on May 29, 2012. The hearing for the adoption of the regulations is set for June 19, 2012 in Sacramento.

Since its formation in 1998, Heal the Ocean has earned statewide recognition for its successful facilitation of septic to sewer conversions in coastal or watershed areas. The organization has succeeded in tapping State funds to pay a portion of many of the projects, and it has been successful in lobbying for State funds for sewer infrastructure upgrade as well (i.e. $2 million for Carpinteria Sanitary District’s moving of its sewer line off the fragile Carpinteria Bluffs).

HTO’s flagship project is the South Coast Beach Communities Septic to Sewer project, which, when finished, will have removed over 130 septic systems from the coastline. On Friday, May 11, 2012, the septic-to-sewer project for the Sandyland community of homes was finished (joining Sandyland and Padaro Lane in a project orchestrated by the Carpinteria Sanitary District, with the Rincon portion of the project to start construction this fall. HTO has also collaborated with the Montecito Sanitary District, serving as an information conduit between the District and homeowners on Orchard Ave., Tabor Lane and some offshoots of East Valley

Road, Montecito. Heal the Ocean is now in meetings with the City of Santa Barbara about finding State funding for pockets of septic systems within City limits.

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