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U.S. EPA Issues Sewer Order to Laguna Beach

Release Date: 10/2/2002
Contact Information: Mark Merchant, U.S. EPA, (415) 947-4297

     The move requires  that the city end sewage spills

     SAN FRANCISCO   The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today that it has formally ordered the city of Laguna Beach to create a plan that will stop sewer spills in the city.
     Laguna Beach operates a 95-mile network of sewer pipes and pump stations that collect sewage from throughout the city. The federal Clean Water Act prohibits discharging raw sewage to "navigable waterways" such as the Pacific Ocean.

     Between July 1, 1997 and June 30, 2002, Laguna Beach reported 64 sewage spills from its sewer system, 20 of which were into local waterways. The city reported 16 spills in calendar year 2000; 16 spills in calendar year 2001; and 6 spills between January 1 and June 30, 2002. The last spill to reach a waterway was in December 2001.

     The EPA and the city have determined that the main cause of sewer spills in Laguna Beach are roots in the system. This accounts for more than 50 percent of the sewer spills. Many of the City's sewer pipes are old and deteriorated making them prone to invasion by roots.

     Portions of the city's sewer system date back to the 1930. In 2001, the city of Laguna Beach had the second worst record of sewer spills of 30 communities surveyed in depth by the EPA.

     In March 2002, the city identified 17 miles of sewer lines in need of replacement or rehabilitation. In addition, many of the city's 26 sewage pump stations are also in need of rehabilitation.

     "City officials are aware of the problem and have already been taking steps to solve it," said Wayne Nastri, regional administrator of the EPA's Pacfic Southwest office. "They have made a bold commitment to ending sewage discharges, and we applaude them for all they've done and continue to do. Our action simply commits the city to carryout their planned sewer system improvements."

     In March, the city council adopted the "City of Laguna Beach Sewer System Strategic Plan" to reduce sewage spills and improve the performance of its collection system. The plan includes an $18.9 million plan to repair, rehabilitate, replace and upgrade sewer pipes and pump stations over the next decade.

     In May, the city completed 45 high priority sewer pipe repairs at a cost of $250,000. To fund sewer improvements, the city council in June approved two 10 percent increases in sewer fees.

     In August, the city council adopted a grease control ordinance requiring grease interceptors at new restaurants, banning restaurant food grinders, and mandating "best kitchen management practices."

  The EPA, at the behest of Congress, gave the city $873,000 in August for sewer system improvement, a figure the city matched, bringing the total for repair and rehabilitation to $1.6 million. This figure is included in the $18.9 million strategic plan.

     With this order, the city must commit to a Sewage Spill Reduction Action Plan by March 2003 that includes a sewer system cleaning and root control program; a sewer pipe inspection and condition assessment; a sewer repair, rehabilitation and replacement schedule; and a pump station and force main maintenance repair and upgrade plan.

     The EPA expects the city to submit a plan similar to the plan approved by city council earlier this year.  The order also requires the city to implement their recently adopted restaurant grease control ordinance which will be evaluated by the EPA after its first full year.

    For more information about sewer spills and the envrironment in Laguna Beach, visit these Web sites: