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U.S. EPA, U.S. Department of Justice, Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board announce $600 million agreement

Release Date: 11/15/2004
Contact Information: Francisco Arcaute, U.S. EPA, (213) 244-1815

Wastewater treatment upgrade work is part of Orange County's $2.4 billion capital improvement program

LOS ANGELES -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board filed a consent decree Nov. 5, 2004, that ensures that the Orange County Sanitation District in Southern California will achieve full secondary treatment by Dec. 31, 2012.

The announcement marks the first time in California that a local wastewater treatment agency has voluntarily elected to upgrade its treatment level to a higher secondary treatment level. The wastewater treatment upgrade will result in an annual reduction in discharges of approximately 8,500 metric tons of total suspended solids and approximately 14,700 metric tons of biological oxygen demand.

"We are very pleased to be part of this exceptional commitment by the Orange County Sanitation District to upgrade its operations and protect coastal water quality," said Wayne Nastri, Regional Administrator for the EPA's Pacific Southwest office in San Francisco. "We will continue to work closely with the Regional Water Quality Control Board and sanitation district as this remarkable project is brought to completion over the next eight years."

"This settlement is an excellent example of cooperation between a local wastewater agency and the government," said Thomas V. Skinner, EPA, Acting Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance assurance. "An investment such as this one in wastewater infrastructure will pay off for generations to come in the improved lives of communities, families and particularly children."

"The Santa Ana Regional Board is pleased to participate in the development and execution of this consent decree which helps facilitate the movement of the Orange County Sanitation District effluent quality to full secondary treatment under a very aggressive time schedule," said Gerald Thibeault, the Regional Board's Executive Officer.

"It is gratifying to see the Orange County Sanitation District voluntarily undertaking a substantial project that will clean our oceans and provide great environmental benefit," said Thomas Sansonetti, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division. "This settlement is a wonderful example of governmental cooperation at the federal, state, and local levels."

The Orange County Sanitation District operates two treatment facilities, Plant #1 in Fountain Valley, and Plant #2 in Huntington Beach, which serve an estimated 2.5 million residents distributed over 470 square miles.

The $2.4 billion Orange County Sanitation District 10 year capital improvement program includes numerous environmentally beneficial projects in addition to completion of those projects, $600 million, required to achieve full secondary treatment.

The sanitation district, in a joint effort with the water district, will construct the country's largest water reuse facility -- estimated to cost $420 million -- by July 2007. Secondary effluent currently being discharged to the ocean will be treated to tertiary levels for salt water intrusion barrier use. The sanitation district will also spend $450 million on collection system upgrade work that will reduce potential future sewer spills.

Under the terms of the consent decree, the Orange County Sanitation District must comply with interim effluent limits that become more restrictive as the upgrading proceeds. The consent decree establishes a schedule for the significant construction projects that should allow the sanitation district to fully comply with secondary requirements. The consent decree includes substantial reporting provisions that require the sanitation district to periodically report its progress to the EPA, the state and the public. The consent decree will take effect when signed by the District Court judge following a 30-day public comment period.