Rep. Peters Reintroduces Water Recycling Legislation for City of San Diego

January 29, 2021 by Sara Wilkerson
San Diego at night.

SAN DIEGO, Calif. – This week, Rep. Scott Peters, D-Calif., reintroduced the bipartisan Ocean Pollution Reduction Act II, legislation that simplifies the city of San Diego’s required permitting process to operate the Point Loma Wastewater Treatment Plant. The legislation will solidify the region’s water security and further cut the amount of wastewater that flows into the ocean from the plant. 

Upon reintroduction, the OPRA II received support from San Diego’s full delegation. Reps. Darrell Issa, Juan Vargas, Mike Levin and Sara Jacobs all joined as original cosponsors. 

“Water recycling is an innovative solution to help San Diego address our water shortage issues,” said Peters in a public statement

“This bill gives certainty to the future of the Pure Water project, removes needless red tape that will save ratepayer dollars, and reduces discharge from the Point Loma plant. 

“I look forward to an ongoing partnership with the other members of San Diego’s congressional delegation, as well as the City of San Diego and other regional partners, to deploy cost-effective technology to protect our region’s water sources.” stated Peters. 

“This bill streamlines our regulatory process and ensures that the City of San Diego will move forward with our landmark Pure Water project, securing a long-term safe and reliable water supply and protecting our ocean waters,” said San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria. 

“I thank Congressman Peters and the entire San Diego delegation for their commitment to getting this done, and look forward to working with our House and Senate partners in delivering this essential piece of legislation for San Diego.” 

For wastewater treatment facilities, plants are required to renew their treatment permits every five years with the Environmental Protection Agency. These EPA permits, along with their secondary treatment standards, help limit materials and substances that are released into the ocean daily. 

In order to meet the secondary treatment standards, the city of San Diego would be required to upgrade the Point Loma facility, which would mean billions of taxpayer dollars spent on the renovations. 

However, upgrading the facility would be unnecessary since it already does not harm the ocean environment, according to scientists at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. 

While some wastewater facilities can apply for permit modifications with alternatives to the secondary standards under the Clean Water Act, this alternative permit process can be lengthy, complicated and costly for the city. 

According to Peters’ office, the OPRA II legislation would replace the alternative permit application with a more effective process provided that the city, “meets certain stringent water recycling milestones.” 

“Under OPRA II, the City of San Diego must demonstrate that its Pure Water Program can 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%,” stated Peters’ office on OPRA II. 

Once OPRA II is passed, the Point Loma facility will be monitored and subjected to ongoing research efforts by academic, city, state, and national entities. 

OPRA II was previously introduced to Congress in 2019 and passed with an overwhelming vote of 395-4 last November, but the Senate did not take action on the bill before the end of the year. 

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