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Orange County

Silva Targets Sewage Waiver

Environment: Supervisor wants the board to urge the sanitation district to support full treatment of the waste water it dumps off Huntington Beach.


Supervisor Jim Silva wants his colleagues next week to urge the Orange County Sanitation District to fully treat the waste water it dumps into the Pacific Ocean.

Silva's decision comes amid mounting pressure against renewal of a federal waiver that allows the sanitation district to dump 243 million gallons of partially treated waste into the ocean per day.

The sanitation district's five-year waiver is up next year. A pivotal vote by the district's 25-member board is expected Wednesday on whether to seek another renewal or opt for full treatment.

Full treatment of the district's outflow would cost $250 million. That averages an extra $16 annually per household for 20 years, sanitation district officials said.

Silva said he placed the resolution on the agenda for Tuesday's Board of Supervisors meeting because he believes converting to full treatment is inevitable.

"I'm a lifetime resident of Orange County, and I consider the beaches and the harbors to be our biggest assets," Silva said. "I know that we'll probably be going to full secondary treatment in 10 to 15 years down the line. It's probably much cheaper to do it now than in 15 years."

Environmental activists have demanded that the district fully treat all the waste water it discharges, as do most of the nation's other 16,000 sanitation districts.

In recent years, the Huntington Beach shore has been plagued with high bacteria counts. A $5-million sanitation district study did not find a definitive source for the bacteria but could not rule out the blend of waste water the district pumps four miles offshore.

During the past year, activists have won resolutions against the waiver from city councils and water agencies whose representatives constitute the 25-member sanitation board.

Said Doug Korthof, who with other activists has won the 11 resolutions from city councils and water agencies: "If Silva is successful when the Board of Supervisors meets on Tuesday that will mean 12 votes on the sanitation board. It's real close."

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