Riverside County’s Department of Waste Resources honored the Idyllwild Brewpub at the Board of Supervisor’s meeting May 2. The brewpub was the 2017 Sustainability Awardee for the 3rd Supervisor’s District. In the front row, are Lori Ferro, co-owner of the brewpub holding the award, Don Put, head brewer (far right) and Frank Ferro (far right second row), co-owner of the Brewpub.
Photo Courtesy Don Put

The Idyllwild Brewpub was honored at last week’s Riverside County Board of Supervisors meeting.

At the beginning of the May 2 meeting, Hans Kernkamp, general manager-chief engineer of the county’s Department of Waste Resources, announced the Sustainability Awards for each supervisorial district.

“It was a very proud moment after such a long time,” said Lori Ferro, co-owner of the brewpub with her husband Frank. And Head Brewer Don Put said, “I’m proud of what we accomplished and feeling fortunate to have been a part of it.”

The Idyllwild Brewpub was the award recipient for the 3rd District. It was also the smallest organization and the only private entity honored at the ceremony. The University of California, Riverside, was the 1st District honoree and the Morongo Band of Indians received recognition for its work in the 5th District.

“Idyllwild Brewpub implements many environmentally responsible practices,” said Corinne Awad, DWR public affairs coordinator. “To reduce food waste, Idyllwild Brewpub donates spent grains to local ranchers for cattle feed. … [To be energy efficient] they have a solar system, which powers the whole brewpub and the LED lighting used exclusively inside and outside.”

DWR has given the Sustainability Award for several years. The award focuses on how the organization employs innovative methods to reduce waste. Examples can be how they use renewable resources or other sustainable practices to change or modify overall consumption.

These include, but are not limited to, composting, energy technology, renewable energy, and the practice and awareness of how materials are being used, processed and consumed. 

Despite this recognition, two Idyllwild residents do not share the same perspective of the brewpub’s initiatives to protect the environment. However, the Regional Water Quality Control Board does not share those fears based on its evaluation of the brewery.

At several Idyllwild Water District meetings and in a letter to state Water Control Board officials, Sue Nash and Tom Paulek have expressed their concern that the Brewpub’s may pollute Strawberry Creek with brewery discharges.

Also, they have objected to the brewery’s use of IWD’s sewer system. In one objection, they point out that the brewery used the sewer system for discharges from October 2016 to the present without a proper permit, specified by the 2016 agreement between the brewpub and IWD.

Nash and Paulek allege that the discharge violates IWD’s permit for the waste treatment plant facility, too.

IWD General Manager Jack Hoagland acknowledged that a permit should have been issued in October and he issued one in February. This requires compliance with the 2016 agreement that includes several stipulations on the biochemical composition of the discharge, volume and timing of release.

Nash and Paulek do not consider this permit satisfactory and want an environmental study, which complies with the California Environmental Quality Act. If the permit is in abeyance until the study is done, the brewpub will likely have to close since they would not have permission to use the district’s sewer.

When asked why they waited until the brewpub opened to express their concerns about the environmental threats and adequacy of the administrative process, Nash replied that they were not aware of the brewpub until this fall and then researched the permitting process.

They also have written to the Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board expressing concern for the IWD’s failure to revoke the brewpub permit or to perform the CEQA analysis on the waste-treatment plant, now that it also serves the brewery.

On April 20, the Santa Ana RWQCB staff rejected Nash and Paulek’s request. “[A]s a percentage of the total waste treated by the water district, the maximum contribution of the brewery would be a fraction of 1 percent. This does not constitute a major new industrial discharge or change in the character of the waste sufficient to require an amendment to the existing order.

“Monitoring reports submitted by the water district since [November 2016] demonstrate compliance with their effluent limits without a change in the treatment process.”

The RWQCB stressed that it continues to believe the IWD treatment facility is capable of handling the discharge from the brewery and they will continue to monitor the sampling reports for any changes.

In response to these concerns, nearly 400 people have signed a letter supporting the environmental actions at the brewery. The letter address the brewpub’s economic benefits to the Hill, but also states that the signer “[is] confident that the County of Riverside, Idyllwild Water District and other regulatory entities have ensured that the Brewpub will be operating in full compliance with all laws and existing regulatory requirements, protecting our community’s environmental resources.”