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Board Wants Sewage Treated Further

Policy: O.C. supervisors vote for cleaning waste more before it's dumped into the sea. Sanitation district will vote today on seeking extension of Clean Water Act waiver.


The Orange County Board of Supervisors joined a coalition of cities and environmentalists Tuesday in urging sanitation district officials to perform greater treatment of sewage dumped into the Pacific Ocean.

The move came a day before the Orange County Sanitation District takes its pivotal vote on the treatment issue.

The district's 25-member board will decide tonight whether to seek another five-year waiver allowing it to bypass requirements of the federal Clean Water Act.

"I'm getting a lot of strong support for getting rid of the waiver," said Supervisor Tom Wilson, who will represent the county in the vote. "Orange County should step up and take action and demonstrate that we're willing to help improve water quality in the ocean."

Board Chairwoman Cynthia P. Coad joined Wilson and Supervisor Jim Silva, who recommended that the board push for fuller treatment of sewage pumped about four miles off Huntington Beach.

Silva's district includes the coastal city, whose merchants suffered losses in 1999 when miles of beaches were closed because of high bacteria counts in the water.

A study by the sanitation district didn't pinpoint the source of pollution that closed the beaches but didn't rule out the sewage plume.

"Prior to today's vote, I was hoping we'd have proof of where the contamination was coming from," Coad said. "But [greater treatment] is something that has to be done. We may as well do it now as later."

The district's waiver allows it to give primary and secondary treatment to half of the waste it pumps to the ocean. The rest is given only primary treatment.

Of about 16,000 sanitation districts nationwide, only 36 have such waivers.

The district has contended that there is no proof that fuller treatment would stop beach contamination.

A new plant to remove additional solids would cost as much as $430 million, which the district contends would double some sewer rates over the next 12 years.

The sanitation meeting begins at 6 p.m. at district offices, 10844 Ellis Ave., Fountain Valley.

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