Short Term Contract Inked for HHW Facility

Written by Neil Farrell

Neil has been a journalist covering the Estero Bay Area for over 27 years. He’s won numerous journalism awards in several different categories over his career.

November 23, 2022

People who use the household hazardous waste facility in Morro Bay will have a few more months of operations before a major change is needed.

The City of Morro Bay, Cayucos Sanitary District, and County Integrated Waste Management Authority (IWMA), inked a 10-year agreement in April 2000 to host a “Household Hazardous Waste” collection facility at the City/CSD, jointly owned sewer treatment plant on Atascadero Road. 

The IWMA mans the facility on a drive-thru basis and is open for collecting HHWs on Saturdays. The original agreement was renewed in 2010, and again in 2020, when it was extended to August 2022., it has been extended informally since that time, under the original agreed upon terms.

Last week, the City Council reaffirmed the arrangement and extended it through February 2023, with two, 3-month extensions available.

The City will look for a spot to move the HHW facilities — which consist of a modular storage unit and a roll-off box — “providing waste collection and proper disposal of household hazardous waste that cannot be safely and properly disposed of in the trash or in the gutter,” according to a staff report. 

One possible new location is the City’s new Water Reclamation Facility (WRF) treatment plant, which has a lot of outdoor space but that decision hasn’t been made yet.

The old plant, at 170 Atascadero Rd., is slated to be decommissioned, and torn down at some point in time. The City and CSD co-own the property and the old plant, and negotiations are underway on how to go about the business of removing the plant and making the land ready for possible redevelopment.

How the two sides will decide the various issues between the agencies, is expected to be the final piece of business between the former partner agencies, who divorced over the City’s plans to replace the old plant.

The initial joint-project, which they’d spent 7 years and about $2 million developing, was approved by both agencies but appealed to the Coastal Commission, where it was denied by the Commission in February 2013. The Commission in essence demanded that a new plant be built away from the coast to avoid “coastal hazards” like tsunamis, sea level rise, and flooding of Morro Creek.

That denial, which the City Council majority pushed for but Cayucos strongly opposed, was the start of the end for their partnership.

Not long after that fiasco, the City proposed a new business arrangement. Essentially, the CSD would become a “customer” of Morro Bay with zero ownership interest in the new plant, but would still have to pay 40% of the construction costs. Also, Morro Bay would control what was done with the recycled wastewater. 

That arrangement was unacceptable to Cayucos, which set out on its own and delivered a new plant, on time and on budget; that is now fully operational and totally independent of Morro Bay and the old sewer plant. 

And yet the CSD still owns about 40% interest in the undersea discharge pipeline, the treatment plant and the property it sits on.

How that all shakes out in the end — including the costs sharing ratios for decommissioning — is among the few remaining unknowns to be answered in this nearly two decades old saga.

Wherever the HHW is eventually relocated, the IWMA is responsible for the permitting, oversight and operations of the facility.

The HHW facility will take in for free things like used motor oil, paints, thinners and stains and pesticides among others, so residents don’t end up tossing them away in the regular trash or worse. 

They take these substances in at the HHW facility and a licensed hauler, under contract properly disposes of the hazardous materials.

The Morro Bay HHW collection facility is located at the old City sewer plant at 170 Atascadero Rd. It is open to the public Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and accepts household hazardous waste up to 15 gallons or 125 pounds, or waste materials free of charge.

It is the only HHW facility on the North Coast and one of six such facilities in SLO County.

The others are at: 

• Chicago Grade Landfill, 2290 Homestead Rd., Templeton;

• Cold Canyon Landfill, 2268 Carpenter Canyon Rd., San Luis Obispo;

• Heritage Ranch Community Services District, 4870 Heritage Rd., Paso Robles;

• Nipomo Household Hazardous Waste Facility, 509 Southland St., Nipomo; and,

• Paso Robles Landfill, 9000 Hwy 46 East, Paso Robles.

For hours of operations and to see what other programs the IWMA runs, see:

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