SAN DIEGO – Today, Rep. Scott Peters (CA-52) was joined by San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, President and CEO of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce Jerry Sanders and San Diego Coastkeeper Executive Director Matt O’Malley to announce the passage of the Ocean Pollution Reduction Act II (OPRA II), a bill authored by Rep. Peters that was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives last week with an overwhelming (395-4) majority. Gathered at the North City Water Reclamation Plant, the four local leaders highlighted how the groundbreaking legislation will save City of San Diego taxpayers millions of dollars and solidifies San Diego’s role as a leader in water recycling.
“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.”
“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.”
“This legislation marks a significant milestone for San Diego and the city is leading the way nationally with Pure Water which brings a more reliable, sustainable, and diverse water supply portfolio to serve San Diegans,” said Jerry Sanders, President and CEO of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce. “The legislation provides a meaningful way for the city to keep Pure Water on track and create a fiscally responsible solution without lessening standards for ocean discharges and water quality. Importantly, this also brings water supply certainty for our businesses while sustaining the region for future droughts.”
“This legislation is a critical step in ensuring significant reduction of wastewater discharges into our ocean environment,” said Matt O’Malley, Executive Director of San Diego Coastkeeper. “At the same time, Pure Water will provide climate resilience for our City and region, ensuring water security in the face of a changing climate and increasing pressures on our existing water supplies.”
Rep. Peters is now working closely with California’s senators to shepherd OPRA II through the other chamber of Congress and on to the President’s desk to be signed by the end of the year. Because of the bill’s sweeping bipartisan nature, the lawmaker remains optimistic and is committed to working until the last minute to ensure this crucial legislation becomes law.
The City of San Diego has treated the region’s sewage water through the Point Loma Wastewater Treatment Plant (PLWTP) for over 55 years. To increase the region's water supply and further cut the amount of discharge released from the facility, the City of San Diego adopted the Pure Water Program. This new project will use proven technology to produce purified drinking water for the city and is widely backed by local elected leaders, environmental advocates and state regulators.
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 monitored and researched 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.