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Bill Orton takes daughter Lilac into the Pacific for the first time. (1995)
February 21, 2002
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE -- 825 words
CONTACT: Bill Orton at
ORTON HITS OPPONENT FOR GOING SOFT ON SEWAGE ISSUE; DEMOCRAT LAYS OUT PLAN TO TACKLE CLEANUP      (ORANGE COUNTY) -- Claiming to be the person who can deliver the state funding needed to clean-up OC's oceanfront and rivers, Assembly candidate William R. "Bill" Orton (D-Seal Beach) outlined a proposal for a $100 million regional fund that would help cities and sanitation districts to make needed upgrades on sewers, storm drains and wastewater treatment plants.
"Rebuilding our infrastructure is too big a job for any one city, or even for all the cities," said Orton. "We need a regional approach that brings state money back to Orange County."
Orton, who announced support from key environmentalists in his race, has called for an end to the federal waiver that allows the Orange County Sanitation District (OCSD) to discharge 243,000 gallons of partially-treated sewage directly into the ocean each day.
On board with Orton is Seal Beach City Councilman Dr. Paul Yost and San Gabriel Mountains Conservancy executive director Ann Croissant, as well as Rossmoor Sewer Board Trustee Jack Rosenthal.
"People are getting sick, beaches are being closed and businesses are losing customers because we have problems along our coastline," said Orton. "We need more from our lawmakers than tinkering around the edges of the issue."
Orton criticized his opponent in the November election -- Assemblyman Tom Harman (R-Huntington Beach) -- for "going soft on sewage officials." Orton's opponent is carrying legislation that ignores the waiver question and instead allows OCSD officials to tinker with their charter so the district can branch out into the business of diverting and treating urban runoff.
Orton supports the general concept of the runoff diversion, calling the concept "the first step in the regionalization" of the sewage and storm runoff systems. But any changes to the OCSD charter should be accompanied by a requirement that the district abandon the controversial practice of dumping sewage into the ocean.
"I'm pleased to hear that Bill Orton is against extending the sewage waiver which allows us to be the largest discharger still avoiding full secondary treatment of all sewage," said Doug Korthof, who is helping to lead a local effort to force the OCSD board to stop the ocean dumping.
A number of city councils -- including in Seal Beach and Huntington Beach -- have passed resolutions calling for the OCSD to end the use of the waiver and to fully treat the sewage before its discharge.
Lawmakers are "missing the chance to use the charter issue as a carrot" to entice the OCSD to end the dumping.
Orton proposes placing $100 million in state funds over a ten-year period into an obscure-but-powerful agency known as the California Development Bank, or CalBank. Established in 1994, the CalBank has the power to issue its own bonds and is used to move ahead with non-controversial projects, like roads, bridges and sewers.
Under Orton's plan, the state would put millions into the CalBank each year and require that the OCSD and other agencies match the funds, creating a regional infrastructure account that would be used to help pay for repairs, upgrades and replacements of sewage lines, storm runoff drains, pipes, catchments, and wastewater treatment plants.
"I agree with Bill Orton, that lawmakers should be leading the effort to get full value for taxpayer dollars," said Korthof. "The Sanitation District must fully treat all sewage and diverted runoff to protect the public health."
Not exactly exciting stuff, but it's important, say Orton's supporters.
"Local infrastructure issues may not be glamorous, but they are at the heart of cleaning up our water and making for a better quality of life for residents in Orange County," said Seal Beach City Councilman Dr. Paul Yost.
And Paul Yost knows his water.
As an avid surfer and windsurfer, Dr. Yost claims to be in the water at least three times a week. The city councilmember and medical doctor is also Orange County's sole representative on the San Gabriel and Lower Los Angeles Rivers and Mountains Conservancy, a 63-city agency that manages the two rivers.
The big question, says Orton, is which candidate can deliver on this issue. Simple math favors Orton, who is a member of the party that holds overwhelming majorities in both houses of the legislature.
"If I can pull off an election miracle in November than I think that I'll be able to convince lawmakers and the Governor to make some real action happen on cleaning up our coastline and rivers," said Orton. "It's a question of hammering away one piece at a time."
Yost says that Orton would deliver on the cleanup issue.
"The proposal for funding all depends on who is leading the fight," said Yost, who is the eighth elected official to endorse Orton's candidacy for Assembly. "Bill Orton has the brains, connections and tenacity to actually deliver on something like this."
Orton is looking beyond the election, which is barely nine months away.
"If the incumbent doesn't want to bite off something as big as ending the waiver," said Orton, "then why are we paying him a salary of $99,000 a year?"
BILL ORTON is the Democratic candidate for State Assembly in the 67th District, which covers Cypress, Huntington Beach, La Palma, Los Alamitos, Rossmoor, Seal Beach, and portions of Anaheim, Garden Grove, Stanton and Westminster.
FPPC ID# 1240194