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Montecito Water War Erupts

Orchestrated Campaign Seeks Water and Sewer Board Positions

Accusations that the Montecito Sanitation District is “dumping 500,000 gallons per day of partially treated wastewater” has sparked a storm of denials not just by the sanitation district itself but by the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board. The accusations were leveled in a campaign flyer circulated by a new political organization ​— ​the Committee for Montecito Water Security ​— ​currently seeking to take over all five board seats on the Montecito Water District and two seats on the sanitary district. The new committee has raised in excess of $81,000 to bankroll five candidates and complained of poor relations between the two Montecito districts. The 500,000 gallons of treated wastewater could be reused.

A press release by the regional board said the committee’s flyers contained “mischaracterizations and inaccuracies.” The regional board’s Harvey Packard stated that the sanitation district is meeting state and federal water quality standards. The treated wastewater is discharged about 1,500 feet off Butterfly Beach, 25 feet below the ocean’s surface. “We want the public to know that water quality by Butterfly Beach and Hammond’s Meadow is really good,” he said.

The “water security” campaign has been spearheaded by Robert Hazard, a regular columnist for the Montecito Journal and former president of Birnam Wood Golf Club. Hazard led the successful campaigns to elect Tobe Plough and Floyd Wicks to the water board two years ago. If his three water board candidates win in November, all five members of the board will have been elected with Hazard’s support. Two of the three incumbents dropped out, leaving only Dick Shaikewitz, a 12-year member of the board, to wage a campaign for reelection.

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