City may have to pay $1.5 billion to upgrade Point Loma plant
San Diego’s request to continue operating the region's main sewage treatment facility below the minimum pollution standard was denied Aug. 13 by the California Coastal Commission, the San Diego Union Tribune  reported.
The city may appeal to the U.S. Secretary of Commerce for a third waiver from the Clean Water Act. If the appeal fails, San Diego could be facing up to $1.5 billion to upgrade its Point Loma Wastewater Treatment Plant, meaning the city would probably have to raise sewer rates.
San Diego's advocates were shocked by the deicision, the newspaper reported, but environmentalists who have fought the exemption for years were pleased.
The Point Loma plant is the largest facility in the country that does not meet the federal threshold of secondary treatment. It treats sewage from 2.2 million people and discharges about 170 million gal per day into the Pacific Ocean.
Mayor Jerry Sanders has been trying to convince regulators that the city is meeting the terms of its current exemption and should be allowed to keep processing sewage without a major retrofit. The city gained the support of the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Coastal Commission's technical experts and some environmentalists, according to the newspaper.
The plant will continue operations, and the current waiver remains in effect until the issue is resolved.