House Overwhelmingly Passes Rep. Peters’ Bill to Advance San Diego Water Recycling Program, Saving Ratepayer Dollars and Promoting Healthy Oceans
November 16, 2020
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Tonight, the House passed the bipartisan Ocean Pollution Reduction Act II (OPRA II), a bill introduced by Rep. Scott Peters (CA-52), Rep. Susan Davis (CA-53) and Rep. Duncan Hunter (CA-50) in 2019. OPRA II will simplify the City of San Diego’s required permitting process to operate the Point Loma Wastewater Treatment Plant (PLWTP). The legislation was approved overwhelmingly by a vote of 395-4.
“This bill replaces the complex and expensive secondary treatment waiver application with a simpler and more effective process if the city meets stringent water recycling milestones," said Rep. Peters. "OPRA II has been a decades-long labor of love among the City of San Diego, regional partners and the government. It will deploy cost-effective technology that will protect our region’s water sources – technology that could one day be deployed by other vulnerable communities to help address water shortage issues.”
The City of San Diego has treated the region’s sewage water through the PLWTP for over 55 years, purifying wastewater to a level that can be discharged into the ocean without harming the environment. To increase the region's water supply and further cut the amount of discharge released from the facility, the City of San Diego recently undertook the Pure Water Program, which will use proven technology to produce 83 million gallons of purified drinking water per day. This new project is widely backed by local elected leaders, environmental advocates and state regulators, and solidifies San Diego's role as a leader in water recycling innovation.
“This common-sense bill protects the future of Pure Water, delivers regulatory certainty and moves our region toward securing a safe, independent water supply to benefit the more than two million people impacted by our entire wastewater system. I’m pleased to see the House today recognize the importance of this bill to the economic prosperity of our region,” said San Diego Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer. “Our City is grateful to Congressman Peters for ushering this legislation through the House, and I hope for swift action in the Senate.”
The Clean Water Act generally requires sewer systems to implement a secondary level of treatment. However, scientists at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography have long said that investing billions of dollars to upgrade the Point Loma facility to these secondary treatment standards would waste taxpayer money because the advanced treatment currently provided by the plant, combined with its 4.5-mile-long outfall, does not harm the ocean environment. In fact, building a new facility along the coastline could do more harm than good.
Under OPRA II, the City of San Diego must demonstrate that its new Pure Water Program is able to produce 83 million gallons of water a day, one-third of the City’s water supply demand, by 2036. Over the same period, the program is predicted to reduce discharge from PLWTP by over 100 million gallons, which will be continuously monitored and subjected to ongoing research efforts by academic, city, state, and national entities. If these conditions are met, the City can forgo the expensive secondary treatment waiver application and can instead apply for its five-year permit through a simpler process. This bill ensures that San Diego has long-term certainty for its water supply and does not change the role of the state, weaken the Clean Water Act or relax existing environmental standards of PLWTP or other wastewater treatment facilities.
Rep. Peters has been a long-time advocate of innovative solutions to San Diego's water shortage issues. He was one of three San Diego city councilmembers in 2006 who supported black water recycling to improve the reliability of our regional water supply, and since coming to Congress, has been a vocal supporter of the Pure Water Program.
Click HERE to watch Rep. Scott Peters’ full remarks from today about OPRA II on the House floor.