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San Diego Gets Pollution Waiver For Point Loma Plant

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The California Coastal Commission voted Wednesday night to give the city of San Diego a waiver for the Point Loma Sewage Treatment Plant. The vote means the city won't be paying to upgrade the plant.

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Above: The California Coastal Commission gave Point Loma Waste Water Treatment a third waiver Wednesday saving the City of San Diego $1.5 billion to upgrade the water treatment plant. The editors discuss local environmentalist viewpoints and the mayor's position on the issue.

The California Coastal Commission voted Wednesday night to give the city of San Diego a waiver for the Point Loma Sewage Treatment Plant. The vote means the city won't be paying to upgrade the plant.

The Coastal Commission took two and a half hours to consider San Diego's waiver request before approving it in an 8-to-4 vote.

The city is the only metro area in the country that doesn't add secondary treatment to sewage before it is discharged into the ocean.

San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders says building a secondary treatment plant would cost about $1.5 billion and could increase sewer bills by 70 percent within five years.

Sanders told Commissioners scientific studies show discharge from the Point Loma Sewage Treatment Plan is not harming marine life.

"Their research concluded that the treatment plant as it operates today does not have a detrimental impact on the environment and continuously operates within its permit requirements," Sanders says.

But Coastal Commissioner Sara Wan says ongoing studies don't provide real time data on whether the discharge is hurting marine life. She voted against the waiver request.

Mark Gold with Heal the Bay questioned why the commission was reconsidering their August vote that denied the city's request.

"Bringing an item back for re-vote only two months later sets a horrible precedent and sends a message to the public that this is purely a political decision, especially considering that there's no new information," Gold says.

Several local environmental groups, including San Diego Coastkeeper, supported the waiver.

Marco Gonzalez says Coastkeeper has an agreement with the city for a two-year study on recycling the discharge instead of piping it into the ocean.

"We're willing as the environmental community on the ground who has sued the city multiple times on this issue, who've been working on this for more than 10 years to say we're moving towards a better plan," Gonzalez says. "A plan that will reduce or eliminate the discharges to the ocean."

Several commissioners pointed out there's no guarantee the water reuse study will solve the treatment issue.

In the meantime, the Coastal Commission vote means San Diego won't be paying for an upgrade to the Point Loma Sewage Treatment Plant.

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