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FOCUS: ORANGE COUNTY COMMUNITY NEWS | NEWPORT BEACH

Vote Set on Sending Treated Sewage Into Bay

April 16, 1998|DEBORAH SCHOCH

Water regulators are set to decide Friday on a long-disputed plan to discharge up to 5 million gallons of highly treated sewage daily into Upper Newport Bay.

Under close scrutiny by environmentalists and water agency officials, the Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board is to vote on the proposal from the Irvine Ranch Water District to dump reclaimed water into the bay for six months each year.

The bay is considered one of the most important and ecologically sensitive estuaries in Southern California, drawing many migrating birds and weekend joggers.

The meeting in Corona is expected to draw many of those who have fought for years against the proposal, first approved by the regional board in 1996. An environmental group called Defend the Bay has argued that the treated water could lead to dramatic increases in the amount of bay algae, reducing oxygen levels and harming marine life.

But water agency officials have countered that their plans for seasonal flushing could mean an overall decrease of about 15 tons of pollution every year moving into the bay.

In January, Orange County Superior Court Judge Robert E. Thomas ruled that the water district needed to more clearly explain how the project could benefit the bay. The board meeting begins at 9 a.m. Friday at the Corona City Council chambers, 815 W. 6th St.. Brief public comments will be allowed.

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