Dear Ocean Outfall Group (OOG):
Thanks to all your emails, and 98,000 public comments, the EPA has reversed course and decided not to approve blending sewage water with drinking and swimming water. See articles in LA Times and Daily Pilot below.
Keep on sending your emails. They work.
See link to LA Times:
Los Angeles Times: EPA Keeps Policy on Sewage Plants
EPA Keeps Policy on Sewage Plants
In a reversal, agency says it won't allow facilities to skip a crucial but costly step in treating wastewater after heavy rains and snow melts.
From Associated Press
May 20, 2005
WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday that it would not allow sewage treatment plants to skip a process for killing some disease-causing micro-organisms after heavy rains or snow melts. The decision reverses a plan proposed in November 2003.
Hours after EPA's announcement, the House approved a measure to block the agency's 2003 proposal from taking effect. The measure had been offered by lawmakers before EPA's about-face.
If the EPA had adopted the policy, U.S. sewage plants might have avoided an estimated $90 billion or more in facility upgrades to allow for oxidation of pollutants in wastes after heavy rains. That lets microbes feed on organic materials, removing viruses and parasites.
The agency normally requires sewage to be treated using a three-step process. But during peak flows from storms, it routinely lets plants discharge a blend of fully and partly treated sewage. The agency had proposed letting that become the official policy for handling the huge volume of wastewater that storms bring, but changed its mind after reviewing 98,000 public comments and the testimony at some congressional hearings.
"Blending is not a long-term solution," said Benjamin H. Grumbles, assistant administrator of the agency's Office of Water. "Our goal is to reduce overflows and increase treatment of wastewater to protect human health and the environment."
Agency officials haven't decided what their National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System requirements should be for municipal wastewater treatment during wet weather. They said they were looking at "the most feasible approaches to treat wastewater and protect communities, upstream and downstream."
Tiernan Sittenfeld, legislative director for the League of Conservation Voters, which supported the House measure, said EPA's reversal was "a victory for health" and would help ensure cleaner lakes, rivers and streams.
Aging sewer systems are designed to overflow from rain, each year discharging more than a trillion gallons of untreated sewage into waterways, raising the chance of waterborne disease outbreaks.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins University say that more than half of the waterborne disease outbreaks in the United States in the last 50 years followed a period of extreme rainfall.
END LA TIMES
See link from Daily Pilot: Daily Pilot: EPA will scuttle proposal to mix sewage in rains
EPA will scuttle proposal to mix sewage in rains
The plan was meant to address worries about having too much water to treat during heavy storms.
By Andrew Edwards, Daily Pilot
After receiving nearly 100,000 comments from the public, the Environmental Protection Agency announced on Thursday that officials had abandoned a proposal that would have allowed sewer operators to dump rainwater mixed with sewage during heavy storms.
The EPA's proposal was opposed by local water-quality advocates in the Surfrider Foundation and Defend the Bay. Bob Caustin, founder of the latter organization, greeted the EPA's decision as good news.
"No one wants to have that in the water supply," he said.
Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Board spokesman Kurt Berchtold said the board was not worried about the EPA's proposal. Since mixed sewage would have been diluted with rainwater, the board did not expect impurities to exceed permitted levels.
"We didn't really see much impact one way or another," Berchtold said.
In 2003, the EPA proposed rules that would have allowed sewer operators to mix rainwater with untreated sewage during storms.
The idea behind the proposal was to address sewer operators' concerns that heavy flows would be harmful to facilities that use microorganisms to treat wastewater.
In order to safeguard those facilities, the EPA would have allowed sewage that had not been treated with microbes to be mixed with storm flows before being discharged.
In a statement, the EPA indicated that it would consider other methods to solve the microorganism problem.
The agency's assistant administrator for its Office of Water, Benjamin Grumbles, said blending water was not a long-term fix that would meet the EPA's desires to cut down on overflows and enhance treatment.
The use of microorganisms to treat sewage after wastewater is filtered is called secondary treatment.
In 2002, the Orange County Sanitation District voted to add secondary treatment facilities.
In March, sanitary district technical director Robert Ghirelli said the cost to add the new facilities was $450 million.
At the time, he said it would cost more to expand facilities to handle massive storm flows without blending.
Caustin said he would prefer that environmental agencies fund expansions rather than limit protective measures.
"It's the cost of doing business," he said. "It's the cost of protecting public health and the environment."*
ANDREW EDWARDS covers business and the environment. He can be reached at (714) 966-4624 or by e-mail at andrew.edwards @latimes.com.