WASHINGTON, D.C.— Today, Rep. Scott Peters (CA-50) 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-48), Mike Levin (CA-49), Sara Jacobs (CA-51), and Juan Vargas (CA-52) all joined as original cosponsors. The legislation will solidify the region’s water security amidst worsening conditions on the Colorado River and further cut the amount of wastewater that flows into the ocean from the plant.
“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 costs ratepayer, and reduces discharge from the Point Loma plant. I am working with San Diego’s Congressional Delegation, the City of San Diego, and other regional partners to get OPRA II to the President’s desk this congress.”
“This bill would streamline our regulatory process and ensure that the City of San Diego can move forward with our landmark water-recycling project, Pure Water, which will supply half of our City’s drinking water by 2035,” said San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria. “I thank Congressman Peters and the entire San Diego Congressional delegation for their dogged commitment to getting this done, and I look forward to working with our House and Senate partners to push this across the finish line.”
Wastewater treatment facilities must renew their permits with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) every five years. These permits and 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. Rep. Peters’ OPRA II of 2019 passed the House in November 2020 by an overwhelming vote of 395-4. Similarly, his OPRA II of 2021 passed under suspension of the rules in June 2021.