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Migrants seeking asylum in the United States are apparently still being temporarily housed at the Ramada hotel at Barbara Worth Country Club in Holtville as a quarantine measure for potential COVID-19 exposure. Several could be seen congregating outside their rooms in this photo from April. | CAMILO GARCIA JR. PHOTO

Imperial County OKs Plan for Barbara Worth Sewer Spills

Use of Country Club’s Hotel As COVID Quarantine Site for Asylum Seekers Only Part of the Problem

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HOLTVILLE — Imperial County officials approved a plan to address sewage spills from the wastewater system serving Barbara Worth Country Club, but rumors that it was linked to the Holtville-area hotel’s use as a COVID quarantine site for asylum seekers is only partly to blame.

“The sewer system is designed that the hotel and restaurant only meet half of its capacity, so it’s only half of the problem,” Imperial County Public Works Director John Gay said on Tuesday, Nov. 16. “Even if the hotel and restaurant weren’t there at all, we would still have these problems to fix.” 

Ramada by Wyndham at the Barbara Worth Country Club is still being used to temporarily house those undocumented migrants who are seeking asylum in the United States. The hotel is listed as not having any lodgings available through the Ramada by Wyndham website or a phone-assisted reservation system.

On May 14, the state Department of General Services extended its contract with the Ramada hotel just outside Holtville to act as the exclusive temporary housing site. That contract was also scheduled to expire on June 30 but had been extended to March 31, 2022, and is not to exceed $20 million.

Individuals with knowledge of the temporary housing of migrants at the hotel did not immediately respond to a request for comment, including the resort owner, and Catholic Charities, Diocese of San Diego, which was contracted by the state to provide wraparound services.

On Tuesday, the Imperial County Board of Supervisors voted to adopt a new sewer system management plan for the County Club Sewer Maintenance District, located west of Holtville, at the request of the Colorado River Basin Regional Water Quality Control Board after several incidents in 2021 caused the spilling of about 66,000 total gallons of sewage, all at the same location.

The district serves the area around and including Barbara Worth Country Club.

Imperial County Director of Public Works/Road Commissioner John Gay discusses the Country Club Sewer Maintenance District’s new sewer system management plan with the Imperial County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, Nov 16. | MARCIE LANDEROS PHOTO

The first spill occurred on Feb. 1, when the Barbara Worth Country Club force main just south of Zen Drive caused a sewer overflow, spilling some 36,000 gallons of sewage which percolated into the ground. The second incident occurred on April 21; this time spilling 30,000 gallons of sewage that washed into a nearby drainage ditch.

The Regional Water Quality Control Board contacted the county on Oct. 5 to notify the county it was in violation of the California Water Code Section 13350, which forbids the discharge of untreated sewage into the waters of the United States. To remedy this violation, the Country Club Sewer Maintenance District was required to provide the water board with a sewer system management plan to prevent further spills.

The Country Club sewer district owns the sewer line and lift station but is currently maintained and serviced by the city of Holtville, which accepts the sewage into its wastewater treatment plant. Imperial County pays for these services through the charging of sewer services in this district, with the county board serving as the district board.

Gay addressed the rumors over the asylum seekers’ use of the facility in an interview after the meeting.

Aside from the golf resort’s hotel, a second temporary housing site had been established in El Centro at the Travelodge by Wyndham El Centro. That site ceased being a temporary housing site on July 1, as a result of a decrease in the number of migrants that were being released into the county by federal immigration officials.