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Environment

Congress Passes Ocean Pollution Legislation, Clearing Path For San Diego's Pure Water Project

The Point Loma Wastewater Treatment Plant sits just above the ocean, Nov. 5, 2014.
Nicholas McVicker
The Point Loma Wastewater Treatment Plant sits just above the ocean, Nov. 5, 2014.

Congress on Tuesday passed a second version of the Ocean Pollution Reduction Act. The legislation will reportedly help the city divert funds into its pure water recycling program.

The San Diego region is dry and its fresh water supply is vulnerable, said legislation author Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego, at a press conference on Tuesday.

“Now, statewide conditions exacerbated by climate change, population growth, and historical over-drafting of water resources have made meeting our water challenges here a permanent challenge," Peters said.

So, the city has invested in starting a Pure Water Project to treat sewage into drinking water. Over time that would mean less sewage will be going to treatment plants that discharge into the ocean.

Peters says The Ocean Pollution Reduction Act allows Point Loma Water Sewage treatment plant to operate as it is, instead of the city having to seek waivers from the EPA or going through expensive upgrades.

“Scientists at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography have long said forcing San Diego ratepayers to pay billions of dollars to upgrade the Point Loma facility to a secondary level would be a waste of money because the advanced treatment that the plant currently provides does not harm the ocean environment," Peters said.

Instead those billions of dollars can go toward the Pure Water Project which is necessary for San Diegans to have enough drinking water.

“Over the same period the program is expected to reduce pollution discharge at Point Loma by over 100 million gallons," Peters said.

Now the bill has to go to the Senate.

"San Diego is pleased to see the overwhelming support for this legislation in the House, and it will allow us to take this next major step forward to the climate action plan and our investment in pure water," said San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer. "This represents the best of our region, and I'm confident that we will get this across the finish line."