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U.S. EPA Gives San Diego $6 Million to Improve Beach Water Quality

Release Date: 7/18/2003
Contact Information: Wendy Chavez, (415) 947-4248

     Mayor Dick Murphy today accepted more than $6 million in funding from the  U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to expand and improve the city's Coastal Low Flow Diversion Program. On a bluff overlooking La Jolla's coastline, Mayor Murphy accepted the $6,091,400 check from Wayne Nastri, the EPA's regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest.  The Coastal Low Flow Diversion Program is one of the city's many strategies to reduce water pollution and achieve the Mayor's Goal #4 - Clean Up Our Beaches and Bays.

     "This funding by the EPA allows us to expand a program that we know works and clearly improves our beach water quality and protects the health of beachgoers," said Murphy.

     The EPA views low flow diversion facilities as key infrastructure improvements cities can use to improve water quality and achieve compliance with the federal Clean Water Act of 1972.
     "This EPA grant to the city of San Diego exemplifies what can be achieved when the EPA and a local community work together -- that water quality goals can be achieved, keeping waters safe and clean for all who enjoy them," said Nastri.

     As in most cities of the western United States, San Diego's storm drain conveyance system is not connected to the sanitary sewer system.  Storm drains were originally intended to prevent flooding by capturing rainfall runoff and diverting the storm flows away from homes and other structures.

     Today, we know that even when it's not raining, storm drains collect urban runoff such as irrigation and occasional sewage overflows.  That urban runoff then flows through the storm drain collection system pipes untreated to the nearest creek, river or beach.

     Coastal Low Flow Diversion facilities are designed to capture these flows and divert them into the city's sanitary sewer collection system for eventual treatment at the Point Loma Water Treatment Plant.  In an effort to improve water quality, the city has also instituted an urban runoff management plan and improved maintenance of the storm drain system.

     Councilmember Scott Peters credits the Mayor and Council for sharing the desire to protect and improve San Diego's quality of life with non-traditional partners as the key to the city's success in bringing resources to the region.  For example, in 2001, the Mayor established the Clean Water Task Force consisting of key members of the local environmental, regulatory, science, education, and business communities to advise the city on how best to achieve cleaner beaches and bays.

     "This check reflects the comprehensive effort we have put forth to bring many resources to the city from all levels of government and across the community to improve San Diego's water quality," said Peters.
     The Coastal Low Flow Diversion Program currently has 47 low flow diversion facilities in operation protecting Mission Bay, and seven other facilities located in La Jolla.  The EPA contribution will fund 55 percent of the total costs for new diversion facilities at the storm drain outfalls dotting the city's coastal communities of Ocean Beach, Pacific Beach and La Jolla.

     The total cost for installing 29 new diversion facilities and repairing the existing 47 diversion facilities in Mission Bay is $5,893,805.  The balance of the EPA funds will be used for other low flow diversion projects that the city is in the process of identifying. The city will contribute $2,652,214 towards the projects.
     Funds were set aside by Congress with the 1999, 2000 and 2001 EPA budget appropriations.  Since then, city staff has worked closely with the EPA to secure all the necessary permits for the 29 co-funded sites.  "It's very satisfying to have a good idea turn into reality and to know that these low flow diversions will result in cleaner beaches and bays," said Frank Belock Jr., director of the city's Engineering and Capital Projects Department.