"I would agree with the assessment that these are more stringent
protections," EPA spokesman Mark Merchant said. "In that case, it will
hopefully improve water quality in the area."
The EPA and state's Water Resources Control Board have scheduled a
July 19 meeting to consider the change. It would come two days after the
district is expected to decide on whether to revamp its sewage treatment
process, to which opposition has been growing in recent months.
Each day, the district releases 243-million gallons of partially
treated sewage into the ocean via an outfall pipe on the ocean floor four
miles off the Santa Ana River mouth.
City leaders in Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Costa Mesa and other
municipalities have pushed the district to step up its treatment of the
Under the new proposed permit, the district would be required to
bleach the sewage, then remove the bleach using a dechlorination
chemical. Releasing high concentrations of bleach into the ocean would
kill fish and damage other marine life.
The proposed permit would also hold the district accountable for
keeping the water clear within three miles of the shore, from surface to
Now, the district is only required to worry about a top layer of water
10 feet deep and three miles out.
The district's 25-member board had already approved
startingchlorination, in which the agency uses industrial strength bleach
to kill bacteria and some viruses in its sewage.
That approval came on March 27. On April 24, the board authorized no
more than $200,000 to develop plans for chlorination, which would cost $8
million per year.
On Wednesday, the district board considered whether to purchase the
chemicals for the disinfection process. Huntington Beach Mayor Debbie
Cook, Newport Beach Mayor Tod Ridgeway and Costa Mesa Sanitary District
and Newport-Mesa Unified School District member Jim Ferryman sit on the
The EPA's proposed changes would alter a waste discharge permit last
given to the district in 1998. In 1999, the state Legislature passed
Assembly Bill 411, which lowered the levels of bacteria allowed to be
present in the ocean.
District officials said they headed to the EPA to request the change
in their permit so it would conform to that law.
"What we said was 'our goal for disinfection was to meet AB411
standards,"' said Robert Ghirelli, the district's technical services
director. "They took that and created this permit."
* Paul Clinton is a reporter for Times Community News. He may be
reached at (949) 764-4330 or by e-mail ato7 firstname.lastname@example.org