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U.S. EPA ISSUES FINAL PERMIT, WAIVER FOR SAN DIEGO WASTEWATER TREATMENT

Release Date: 11/9/1995
Contact Information: Bill Glenn, U.S. EPA, (415) 744-1581

   (San Francisco)--The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) today issued to San Diego a final wastewater permit that includes a waiver from "secondary" sewage treatment standards as a result of improvements to the city's ocean discharge system.  Today's action by the Clinton Administration ends years of conflict over this key aspect of  protecting public health from sewage discharges from San Diego.

     U.S. EPA will also ask that the Department of Justice move to dismiss the portion of its lawsuit against San Diego filed IN 1988, relating to compliance with secondary treatment requirements.

     San Diego applied in late April 1995 for a waiver of the requirement that it provide secondary treatment of its wastewater before discharging it into the Pacific Ocean.  The request came after President Clinton in October 1994 signed into law the Ocean Pollution Reduction Act, which gave San Diego another opportunity to request a waiver after the city withdrew an earlier application.  The city qualified for the waiver by demonstrating that discharging partially treated wastewater through its extended ocean outfall will not have a significant impact on the marine environment.

     "This solution results from both San Diego's and U.S. EPA's commitment to common-sense, cost-effective protection of public health and the environment through sound science and public review," said Felicia Marcus, regional administrator of U.S. EPA's western region.  "After many months of work by everyone involved, I am very pleased to be part of such a winning outcome for the environment and the people of San Diego."

     California's Regional Water Quality Control Board also gave final approval to the permit today.  The joint state-federal permit sets forth specific parameters for wastewater discharge and monitoring that ensure protection of offshore waters.

     U.S. EPA has also announced that it will propose a change to its regulations to eliminate the requirement that a city complete a full application for a waiver every five years.  The change will streamline the renewal process, reduce costs, and does not require legislation.  For example, San Diego's permit already requires ongoing monitoring of  offshore waters.  If monitoring data show no significant effects to the environment, U.S. EPA can sharply reduce the additional information the city needs to submit to assure continuation of the waiver beyond five years.

     Under the terms of the permit, San Diego will be able to continue its current level of sewage treatment, with effluent discharged via a recently extended outfall pipe terminating 4.5 miles off the Pacific coast at a depth of 320 feet.  U.S. EPA's analysis of the scientific data gathered by the city of San Diego confirmed that such discharge does not have a detrimental effect on the ocean environment.

     U.S. EPA and the Regional Water Quality Control Board issued the draft permit in August and accepted public comment through early October.  The permit includes effluent limitations for oil and grease, settleable solids, suspended solids, biochemical oxygen demand, turbidity, pH, acute toxicity, heavy metals and other pollutants.  It also contains a monitoring program designed to evaluate the impact of the wastewater discharge on the marine environment, demonstrate compliance with applicable water quality standards, and measure toxic substances in the discharge.

     The Department of Justice sued San Diego on U.S. EPA's behalf in 1988, during the Reagan Administration, as a result of numerous violations of Clean Water Act requirements.  With the resolution of the waiver issue, U.S. EPA intends to seek court dismissal of the portion of its lawsuit against San Diego that relates to compliance with secondary treatment requirements.  U.S. EPA's continuing enforcement action against San Diego focuses on reducing sewage spills and is independent from the secondary treatment issues addressed by the waiver.

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