Rep. Peters Introduces Bill to Advance San Diego Water Recycling Program and Promote Healthy Oceans

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Last week, Rep. Scott Peters (CA-52) introduced H.R. 4611,  the Ocean Pollution Reduction Act II (OPRA II), legislation that simplifies the City of San Diego’s required permitting process to operate the Point Loma Wastewater Treatment Plant (PLWTP). 

Under this legislation, the City of San Diego must demonstrate that its Pure Water Program is able to produce 83 million gallons a day of water by 2036, an estimated one-third of the City’s water supply. With associated water recycling and conservation efforts, this would reduce treated wastewater flows to the ocean from PLWTP by over 65 percent. This reduction in outflow and waste will be continuously monitored and subjected to ongoing research efforts by academic, city, state, and national entities. This bill ensures that San Diego has long-term certainty for its water supply, while not weakening the Clean Water Act or relaxing existing environmental standards of PLWTP or other wastewater treatment facilities.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grants discharge permits for wastewater treatment facilities that must be renewed every five years. Typically, these permits contain secondary treatment standards, which set limits on what material is released into the ocean according to EPA standards.

However, the Clean Water Act allows some wastewater treatment facilities to apply for permit modifications that offer alternatives to the secondary standards. These alternative standards must be met every five years during the normal permit renewal cycle. The process is lengthy, complex, and costly.

OPRA II replaces the Ocean Pollution Reduction Act, which became law in 1994. Since that time, the PLWTP ocean outfall—at 4.5 miles and 300 feet deep offshore, one of the longest and deepest outfalls in the world—has been subject to decades of research. The EPA, the City of San Diego, the State of California, and scientists from Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego concluded that PLWTP does not have significant adverse effects on the ocean environment outside the immediate area of discharge. This monitoring would continue under OPRA II.

“Water recycling is an innovative solution to help San Diego address our water security. This bill gives certainty to the future of the Pure Water project, which is poised to provide one-third of our region’s water supply, and will reduce discharge from the Point Loma plant. I look forward to an ongoing partnership with the City of San Diego and other regional partners to deploy cost-effective technology to protect our region’s water sources,� said Rep. Peters.

“This legislation will save the City of San Diego millions of dollars and protect regional ratepayers from billions in new costs by providing legislative and regulatory certainty for the Pure Water project. I applaud Congressman Peters for his leadership on this issue and look forward to working with his office to move this critical legislation forward,” said San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer.

OPRA II is endorsed by the Surfrider Foundation, San Diego County chapter; San Diego Audubon Society; Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation; San Diego Coastkeeper; Paul Dayton, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor Emeritus and Ed Parnell, Ph.D., Associate Research Oceanographer, Scripps Institution of Oceanography; the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce; Biocom; Building Industry Association of San Diego County; Industrial Environmental Association (IEA); Plumbers & Steamfitters Local Union #230; the Otay Water District; and the City of Lemon Grove Public Works Department. Elected officials from the following cities have also endorsed OPRA II: the City of San Diego, the City of Chula Vista, the City of Coronado, the City of Del Mar, the City of El Cajon, the City of Imperial Beach, the City of Poway, the City of La Mesa, and National City.