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EPA, DOJ File Complaint Against San Diego for Sewage Spills

Release Date: 7/9/2003
Contact Information: Wendy L. Chavez, (415) 947-4248

    SAN FRANCISCO   The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Justice today filed a complaint against the city of San Diego for its sewage spills and illegal discharges to waters, both violations of the Clean Water Act.

    "This is the first step in what we believe will lead to a far-reaching agreement to implement measures to reduce and eliminate sewage spills," said Wayne Nastri, the EPA's regional administrator.  "We are encouraged by the city's continued actions to reduce spills and repair and renovate its waste water infrastructure and the mayor's strong commitment to solving this problem."

     In 1997, a District Court issued a final order to San Diego requiring the city to address spills from its waste water collection system.

    In 2001, the EPA audited the city's waste water collection system to identify specific causes of the spills, which are attributed primarily to sewer main breaks in an aging system and sewer line blockages caused by tree roots and grease build-up in storm drains.

    As a result of the audit, the EPA ordered the city in 2002 to expand its efforts to prevent spills and submit detailed plans to:

    - inspect, repair, rehabilitate, and replace sewer pipes;
    - help prevent root infiltration and grease build-up in the pipes;
    - reduce spills in the canyons, which tend to be high volume and often go undetected longer, and;
    - rehabilitate pump stations
    San Diego has submitted the required plans and is working toward improving its operation and maintenance of the sewer system.

    The EPA will join ongoing settlement negotiations between the city and environmental groups to weave the city's plans and the EPA's order into a judicial decree, which will formalize the actions the city will take regarding spills and infrastructure.

     Untreated sewage contains organic matter, bacteria and other potential pathogens, all of which are harmful to the environment, including marine life.  Similarly, the pathogens released from raw sewage create a potential public health risk if humans come into contact with the sewage.