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County Agency Is Urged to Drop Sewage Waiver

April 14, 2002

Re "A Sewage Plume Comeback?," April 4:

Your article presents one more piece of research supporting the need for a minimum of full secondary treatment of sewage discharged off the coast by the Orange County Sanitation District. The study referenced in the article indicates a mechanism by which the sewage plume can reach the shore, as did a 1997 study commissioned by the district.

In February, the plume came within half a mile of Newport Beach, according to the sanitation district; on March 14, beach postings were made from the Santa Ana River mouth to the Wedge in Newport Beach.

Indeed, many district board members, including Yorba Linda Councilman John M. Gullixson, will wait for that one more piece of science, just like apologists for big tobacco wanted to wait for that one more piece of evidence linking smoking to cancer. How much more science will it take for the sanitation district directors to do the prudent thing and direct the staff to move to full secondary treatment of all sewage before dumping it into the ocean?

Dennis Baker

Corona del Mar


The evidence is growing that partially treated sewage released 4.5 miles offshore is spending too many days at the beach. Environmentalists have long claimed that the sewage plume was contaminating Orange County's shoreline, causing danger for swimmers and surfers and prompting frequent beach closures.

The Orange County Sanitation District has denied this scenario, insisting that released sewage was not contributing to the problem and that concerned citizens were overreacting because effluent had no possible way to reach the shoreline.

Recently, however, the district did admit that the sewage had, in fact, come as close as a half a mile to shore. The new UCI study gives credence to the possibility that this filth could "ride the waves" even nearer on a surfboard of cold, beach-bound water. Care for a moonlight swim, sanitation district?

Linda Nicholes



The Orange County Sanitation District needs to do the right thing and get rid of the waiver. The study released shows how the plume formed by the discharge of 240 million gallons a day of sewage that is not treated to the specifications called for by the Clean Water Act could have come back to shore in 1999. The federal Clean Water Act calls for full secondary treatment of sewage. The district's waiver allows it to dump sewage not receiving full secondary treatment into the ocean 4.5 miles offshore at a depth of 200 feet.

On Feb. 11, a sewage plume was discovered half a mile off Newport Beach at a depth of 40 feet. The various things the district has proposed as substitutes for full secondary treatment require a waiver. The district admits it will take five to seven years to achieve full secondary treatment.

Eileen Murphy

Huntington Beach

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