The World Beneath Our Streets
Storm sewers and sanitary sewers are two different things. In the Ojai Valley, we have both kinds, and they are separate systems. The Ojai Valley Sanitary District is responsible only for the sanitary sewer system. When there is crossover between the two systems, we have problems, and that is what happens when conditions of Infiltration & Inflow (I & I) exist. Infiltration is when rainwater is leaking into buried sewer pipes and Inflow is where rainwater flows directly into open sewer pipes. I & I are serious problems; they have caused us more sewage spills and plant upsets than anything else, and can be harmful to our environment.
The Ojai Valley Sanitary District is engaged in efforts to correct the problem of Infiltration and Inflow (I & I). Since these leaks can come from a variety of sources (through downspouts or other drainage lines hooked up to the sewage lines, leaking sewage lines that allow water to enter when the ground is saturated or flooded, breakage from tree roots, or illegal connections to the sewage lines), we need to conduct a thorough investigation as to where the leaks are coming from. Although each of these conditions may only allow a few gallons into the system during dry weather conditions, they can really add up during storm conditions, and consequently, hydraulically overload our treatment facility. When our treatment facility is hydraulically overloaded, as it was during the storms last March, sewage spills become unavoidable.
We must fix the leaks, and we're already in action. Currently, the OVSD has skilled crews blanketing the Valley with cables, cameras, and videotape. These teams of workers will perform comprehensive surveys of the OVSD's entire sewage system so that problem areas may be identified and repaired. We will be finishing our evaluation in phases, and hope to be making our repairs soon after. After the repairs to our system are made, the OVSD will move into the second phase of our efforts, which will include smoke testing. Smoke testing is another effective way of identifying leaks in the system, and is most effective during the dry weather months when the water table is at its lowest point. Once these leaks are systematically found and repaired, the problem of Infiltration and Inflow will be greatly reduced, thus making the amount of storm water intrusion into our sewer system much less a risk to our environment.
The amount of Infiltration and Inflow into our sanitary sewer system must be reduced. Otherwise, we risk the possibility of sewage spilling into the Ventura River and other local waterways, as well as potential fines for violating discharge limits. In addition the these specific environmental and financial issues, it just doesn't make sense to treat water that does not need to be treated.
Once our initial phase is completed, we will come back to you with the results of investigation, so as to keep the Ojai Valley community up-to-date with our progress in resolving this matter.