Metropolitan Wastewater Department

May 3, 2005

CONTACT:   Michael Scahill
(858) 292-6403

City Reaches Agreement on Sewer Spills Lawsuit

SAN DIEGO - The City of San Diego has reached an agreement that ensures the continuation of the City's successful Sewer Spill Reduction Program. The consent decree, signed by the City, the Surfrider Foundation, the San Diego Baykeeper, and the EPA, resolves a lawsuit against the City for alleged violations of the Clean Water Act from sewer spills. Monies to meet the estimated $187 million settlement are already part of the Metropolitan Wastewater Department's budget.

"This consent decree is a result of collaboration among the parties over the course of more than a year," notes Scott Tulloch, Director of the City's Metropolitan Wastewater Department. "The consent decree reflects the success and continued viability of our comprehensive sewer spill reduction strategy."

The City has already seen a 65 percent reduction in sewer spills since Calendar Year 2000 when there was an average of one sewage spill per day. In 2004, that number had been reduced to only 127 spills. Despite much higher than normal rainfall, the number of sewer spills in the first four months of 2005 continues to reflect even further reductions.

The consent decree builds on the City's Sewer Spill Reduction Program and a 2002 EPA Administrative Order. The program includes increasing pipeline rehabilitation and replacement from 15 to 45 miles per year and implementing a comprehensive sewer pipeline cleaning program. Last year, the City completed cleaning of the entire sewer pipeline system and put all 3,000 miles of its sewer lines on a regular maintenance schedule.

Other elements of the consent decree require the City to continue its efforts to reduce sewer spills caused by cooking oil and grease; to repair, rehabilitate or replace 30 miles of sewer lines in the next year; and to continue its sewer spill reduction program through Fiscal Year 2006.

The consent decree settles the original lawsuit over sewer spills filed in 2001 by the Surfrider Foundation and San Diego Baykeeper. The EPA joined that suit in 2003.

The City will meet with the parties in the lawsuit later this year to complete a long-term strategy for continued reductions of sewer spills in the future.

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