The City of Santa Barbara agreed to extend its five-year legal settlement agreement with Santa Barbara Channelkeeper over sewage spills for another three years. Channelkeeper’s Kira Redmond said City Hall’s number of spills had dropped considerably since the lawsuit was filed in 2011, but that there are still more happening than the settlement allowed for.
Between 2011 and 2016, there were 73 spills, ten more than the maximum allowed. In the settlement extension, Redmond said the maximum number of spills allowed has been ratchetted down to eight a year for the next three years. In addition, she said the settlement calls for more systematic evaluation and assessment of the city’s sewer pipes. Redmond said the age of the pipes plus root infestation was the chief reason for the leaks.
City Public Works czar Rebecca Bjork said City Hall was already committed to reducing the number of spills and decided that the money required to wage a legal defense could be better spent. She agreed that old pipes and roots were the culprit, but added that many of the city’s sewer pipes were also very small — six inches in diameter — and consequently more susceptible to root infestation. When private homeowners cleared roots from their sewer laterals, the root detritus often found its way into the smaller pipes, choking the flow and causing spills.
Bjork noted there were only seven spills last year. In 2009, by contrast, there had been 44.