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San Diego Gets EPA Sewage Waiver


The City of San Diego may not have to spend billions of dollars upgrading the Point Loma Sewage Treatment Plant. The EPA has tenatively given the city a third five-year waiver from meeting federal Clean Water Act standards.  KPBS Environmental Reporter Ed Joyce has more.

If granted, the EPA ruling means the city can continue treating sewage at the "advanced primary" level before discharging the waste about 4-1/2 miles offshore.

The EPA says city records show the sewage is not harming the marine environment.

San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders asked for the exemption because of the price tag to upgrade the plant.

Sanders: The waiver will save the ratepayers of San Diego up to about $1.5 billion and that would have caused our sewer bills to skyrocket unnecessarily.

The Point Loma plant is the nation's largest sewage facility that does not meet the federal clean water rules.

San Diego Coastkeeper Executive Director Bruce Reznik says it's possible environmental groups won't challenge the waiver.

The group has fought against the previous two waivers granted by the EPA.

Now Reznik says he's hoping to work out an agreement with Sanders before next month's EPA waiver hearing.

Reznik: In developing a long-term plan for our sewage infrastructure and for the way we treat and handle our wastewater and ultimately how  reuse that wastewater. I'd much rather be walking hand-in-hand with the city than deciding whether or not we're going to challenge a waiver application.

Reznik says one solution is to recycle the wastewater.

Reznik: And look at ways that we can minimize or even eliminate discharges to the ocean and actually start to beneficially reuse wastewater that again would otherwise be dumped out into our ocean and impact that environment.

Reznik says in the long run recycling can reduce the reliance on imported water.

And Sanders says he's open to the idea.

I am willing to talk to anybody about better recycling of water and how we do that in a way that we can use all that water. Instead of a way that we put it all out the ocean outfall.

The EPA waiver allows the city to continue treating the wastewater with chlorine  before discharging it offshore.

Ed Joyce, KPBS News.


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