By Raiza Giorgi

All options are still on the table in developing a wastewater treatment system in Los Olivos, but the community needs to pick one quickly — before the state takes over the decision, according to the Los Olivos Community Services District.

In a special meeting May 30, the LOCSD board presented a range of wastewater treatment options after spending the last year meeting with the California Regional Water Quality Control Board and Santa Barbara County Environmental Health Services.

“We are here to hear from you and know what you think. Then we will take the input and make the best decision for the community. If we don’t come up with a solution, the water board will come up with one for us, and we lose the ability to seek funding and grant opportunities,” said LOCSD board president Tom Fayram.

The LOCSD was created in January 2018. The unincorporated community of about 1,000 people, labeled a “special problems area” since the 1970s because of failing septic systems, has not had any local government to deal with the issue other than the county Board of Supervisors.

The five directors elected were Lisa Bertero-Palmer, Fayram, Mike Arme, Julie Kennedy and Brian O’Neill, who were then tasked with the planning, construction and operation of a community wastewater system.

Wastewater and septic systems have been a decades-long issue because of the town’s high water table, which increases the risk that septic tank effluent will pollute groundwater.

“The option of doing nothing isn’t really an option. The water board is going to release their documents and findings soon on our groundwater issues, and they can choose what to do for us if we don’t get started,” said O’Neill.

O’Neill’s background includes more than 25 years of managing wastewater and sanitary system assessments, design, construction and permitting. He was tasked with identifying all possible systems and rough cost and time estimates.

The systems he identified included a regional option of sending sewage to Solvang; a local option of a building a Los Olivos treatment plant; and identifying the first problem areas and phasing in a treatment system.

He said some options created in the 1970s have been taken off the table because they aren’t compliant with current regulations.

“The Santa Ynez Community Services District option was greyed out as they pulled the idea of us connecting to their pipelines and flowing through to Solvang. However, they did say they would operate a local treatment system for us if we are interested,” O’Neill said.

Going directly to Solvang by building four miles of pipeline down Alamo Pintado Road would not only require building a pre-treatment facility, but it would mean huge costs associated with doing environmental impact reports (EIRs) as the pipeline would have to cross several creeks to get to the connection at Sunny Fields Park, O’Neill added.

“Without a design and specs, the costs for this are still undetermined, but we know we are looking at four to five million (dollars) to start. The more pipeline and creek crossings, the more time and money it ends up costing us,” he added.

 “If we can identify which are the areas to address first and put in a packaged treatment system, it could potentially happen faster than the other options. Depending on the needs, we can expand it over time as we monitor the groundwater,” O’Neill said.

He reiterated that no decisions have been made and the board wants as much community input as possible. O’Neill added that anyone in the community who has additional solutions to contact the board and come to the next meeting on Wednesday, June 26.

That meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. at Los Olivos Elementary School at 2540 Alamo Pintado Road. 

The board also plans a meeting for July 31 to present its preferred option to the public.

To get more information and to watch the options presented by LOCSD, visit Contact LOCSD by email at or call 805-946-0431.