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State tightens rules for Santa Rosa’s wastewater discharge into Laguna

State water quality regulators have tightened environmental restrictions on Santa Rosa’s wastewater treatment plant in an effort to protect the health of the Laguna de Santa Rosa over the objections of city officials who questioned whether the tougher regulations are justified.

The new five-year permit governing the city’s discharges of treated wastewater into the Laguna contain a controversial prohibition on the release of phosphorus into the Laguna, which is listed as an impaired waterway.

A toxic legacy in downtown Santa Rosa

Downtown, on the north bank of Santa Rosa Creek, a large mural of a fish graces a concrete retaining wall along the Prince Memorial Greenway.
The colorful artwork is meant to celebrate one of the key goals of the $25 million public works project — the restoration of the creek’s aquatic habitat.
But the health of the creek remains threatened by what lies hidden behind that retaining wall — soil and groundwater contaminated with a toxic brew of oil and other poisonous byproducts left behind at a former manufactured-gas plant.
Pacific Gas & Electric Co. closed the plant in 1924 and now is spending tens of millions of dollars to clean the site at First and B streets, now mostly covered by the parking lot of the Westamerica Bank building.
But 26 years after regulators ordered the property cleaned up, it still hasn’t been and won’t be for years.

What is polluting Santa Rosa Creek?

The search continues for whatever is polluting Santa Rosa Creek on B Street near downtown. After years of questions, city public works officials this week ripped up a part of parking lot at the corner of Ross and B streets to see if there was a leaking underground fuel tank that might be contaminating the soil and nearby waterways.