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Clean water, dirty air 

Requiring Los Osos homeowners to pump out their septic tanks every two months could cause serious public health risks, according to air quality officials.

In a surprise move this week in the ongoing Los Osos sewer debate, the local Air Pollution Control District has asked the Regional Water Quality Control Board to delay its proposed enforcement action against Los Osos residents so a health risk assessment of diesel trucks can be completed. The Water Board was scheduled to discuss the Los Osos septic tank pumping requirement at its meeting on Friday, April 28, but then the APCD asked for the delay.

The Water Board calculates the bimonthly septic tank pump-out requirement for 5000 Los Osos households means that 27 diesel-powered trucks would enter and leave Los Osos every day, 6 days a week, 52 weeks a year. Diesel particulates emitted by septic tank pumping trucks are carcinogenic, and create chronic and acute health impacts, according to APCD chief Larry Allen.

“Our biggest concern is the exposure to diesel particulates for people at their houses, with the septic tank pumping trucks sitting there for 45 minutes each time,� Allen says. “We’re not taking any sides, we’re just concerned about public health. The Water Board has been very responsive. They don’t want to create a health issue.�

Diesel trucks can be fitted with filters to eliminate 90 percent of their emissions, at a cost of $5,000-20,000 per truck. It’s unclear whether Los Osos homeowners would be asked to foot the bill for installing the diesel particulate filters.

Friday’s Water Board meeting is also scheduled for a closed-door discussion on litigation against the Los Osos Community Services District over the sewer controversy.

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