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RWQCB to reset hearing on water system discharge requirements

The San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB) will hold another hearing on renewing a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit covering the discharge of water systems during test or maintenance conditions.

The RWQCB’s December 16 hearing on general waste discharge requirements for the discharges of hydrostatic test water and potable water to surface waters, storm drains or other conveyance systems resulted in a 6-0 vote to hold a hearing in February or March to issue the actual requirements.

The continuance will allow stakeholders and RWQCB staff to finalize updates to the draft permit reissuance and will also allow water agencies from outside San Diego County, but affected by the requirements, to evaluate the new proposed order.

“I think it is critical that the stakeholders in this permit finish the job,” said RWQCB member Grant Destache.

The boundaries of the state’s nine regional water quality control boards are based on hydrologic regions rather than county boundaries. Parts of Orange County and Riverside County are in the San Diego region (Region 9) while part of San Diego County is in the Colorado River Basin region (Region 7).

The San Diego RWQCB consists of nine board members if no vacancies exist. The board currently has three vacancies.

Water districts, other public water agencies and private water suppliers occasionally conduct repair and maintenance work on their distribution systems, which usually results in discharges of potable water. The repair and maintenance work includes water line draining for addition of new service connections, draining for internal inspections, draining for valve replacements, water line flushing for water quality reasons to address public health issues and hydrostatic testing of pipelines, tanks and vessels.

While water agencies and the RWQCB both seek water quality, the chlorination of water to disinfect the supply can pose toxicity risks to aquatic animal or plant life. Disinfection byproducts also include trihalomethanes, total dissolved solids, total suspended solids and metals.

In August 2002, the RWQCB adopted an NPDES permit covering general waste discharge requirements for discharges of hydrostatic test water and potable water to surface waters, storm drains and other conveyance systems. The order requires enrolled participants to establish a set of best management practices associated with hydrostatic test water and potable water. The permit was for a five-year period, although it has been extended administratively since its August 2007 expiration date.

The proposed updated tentative order does not change effluent or receiving water limitations, which limit residual chlorine to 0.1 milligram/liter and require a pH level between 6.0 and 9.0 at all times. The most significant change involves the reporting level exemption, which currently applies to discharges under 500,000 gallons per day and is proposed to be reduced to discharges under 1 acre-foot (325,850 gallons) per day.

The proposed changes also require dischargers to submit an annual report which outlines water distributed and the total volume of planned and unplanned discharges throughout the year, as well as require enrolled participants to develop an effluent characterization plan, and adopt a new format to provide statewide consistency.

The tentative order was posted on June 25 and a workshop to discuss the new standards was held July 20. A technical advisory committee was formed following the July 20 workshop, and changes to the proposed document were sent by electronic mail on November 25 and by hard copy on December 2. An additional meeting with RWQCB staff and the technical advisory committee took place in early December.

RWQCB member George Loveland was formerly a City of San Diego representative to the San Diego County Water Authority and was involved with the city’s water department.

“The regulated industry here and our staff have desires to do the same thing,” Loveland said. “I would recommend that we give them the time to go back.”

RWQCB executive officer David Gibson is willing to eliminate duplicative requirements.

“If you’ve got an obligation, there’s no reason to have it again in the permit,” he said.

Gibson will make the decision when to return to the board for another hearing to adopt the proposed permit.

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