WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Rep. Scott Peters (CA-52) re-introduced the bipartisan Ocean Pollution Reduction Act II (OPRA II), which simplifies the City of San Diego’s required permitting process to operate the Point Loma Wastewater Treatment Plant (PLWTP). Representatives Darrell Issa (CA-50), Juan Vargas (CA-51), Mike Levin (CA-49) and Sara Jacobs (CA-53) all joined as original cosponsors. The legislation will solidify the region’s water security and further cut the amount of wastewater that flows into the ocean from the plant. Rep. Peters’ OPRA II of 2019 passed the House in November 2020 by an overwhelming vote of 395-4, but the Senate did not take action on the bill before the end of the year.
“Water recycling is an innovative solution to help San Diego address our water shortage issues,” said Rep. Peters. “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.”
"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."
Wastewater treatment facilities must renew their permits with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) every five years. These permits, along with their secondary treatment standards, limit the materials and substances released into the ocean. To meet these secondary treatment standards, the City would waste billions of taxpayer dollars to upgrade the Point Loma facility, which, according to scientists at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, already does not harm the ocean environment.
The Clean Water Act allows some wastewater treatment facilities to apply for permit modifications that offer alternatives to the secondary standards. This alternative permit process is lengthy, complicated and costly. OPRA II replaces the alternative permit application the PLWTP undergoes every renewal cycle with a more effective process if 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 percent. This reduction in outflow and waste will be continuously monitored and subjected to ongoing research efforts by academic, city, state and national entities. This bill ensures that San Diego has long-term certainty for its water supply. It does not 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 science-based water supply solutions. 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.