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U.S. EPA ANNOUNCES $72,000 SLUDGE FINE

Release Date: 12/13/2001
Contact Information: Lisa Fasano, (415) 947-4307, Cell: (415) 760-5421

     Dana Point facility agrees to fine and corrects violation

     SAN FRANCISCO - Today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a $72,000 fine against the Southeast Regional Reclamation Authority's municipal wastewater treatment plant in Dana Point, Calif. for failing to treat sewage sludge to sufficiently reduce harmful bacteria, viruses and other pathogens before providing it to farmers for use as a fertilizer, a violation of the Clean Water Act.

     During a routine records inspection in May 2000, an EPA investigator discovered that the facility from January 1999 through April 2000 was inadequately treating its sludge before trucking it off for land application.  The authority acknowledged the violation and agreed to the penalty.

     "Biosolids are an excellent fertilizer, if the facilities treat it sufficiently to maintain public confidence and protect public health," said Alexis Strauss, Water Division Director of the EPA's Pacific Southwest region.   "We believe the facility is now complying with the law, and will continue to oversee biosolids treatment in California."

     The sludge had been trucked from the Dana Point facility to fields in Riverside County, where it was then spread as a soil enhancer for growing non-food crops.

       The authority was using a process that under the Clean Water Act  requires treatment for at least 15 days to adequately reduce disease pathogens.  At the time of the violation the authority was only treating their sludge for up to 11 days.  During the inspection the EPA notified the facility of the violation and the facility immediately took action and began sending all its material to a composting facility for further treatment to reduce harmful pathogens.

     The authority had certified to the EPA in its annual report that it was reducing sewage sludge pathogens to levels required for use as a fertilizer for non-food crops.   Since this inspection, the EPA's San Francisco office has asked wastewater facilities to provide additional data to companies that spread biosolids as a fertilizer to ensure the material has been adequately treated in accordance with the law.

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