The California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA) prevailed in a lawsuit against the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board (Regional Board) regarding the wastewater discharge permit for the Sacramento Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant (Treatment Plant). Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael P. Kenny ruled, on 18 August 2014, that the Regional Board’s permit violated explicit federal Clean Water Act (CWA) requirements in developing effluent limits for hardness dependent metals, in failing to impose a weekly effluent limitation for aluminum and improperly granting the Facility an exception to the Thermal Plan. A writ of mandate will be issued directing the Regional Board to comply with applicable requirements and return to court within 60 days, setting forth what it has done to comply with the writ. The court will retain jurisdiction to ensure compliance.
“This is an important victory for clean water and healthy fisheries, as the Regional Board has been using the same illegal methods in developing discharge limits for wastewater permits throughout the Central Valley,” said CSPA Executive Director Bill Jennings adding, “The fact that virtually every significant waterway in the Central Valley is identified as legally impaired and violating water quality standards is an indictment of the waterboards failure to comply with a CWA that was adopted more than forty years ago.” “Under withering political pressure from the regulated community, the Regional Board has been ignoring numerous legal requirements and weakening waste discharge requirements in recent years. The court has now told them they must comply with the law and compliance with the law will require significant improvement in the treatment of wastewater,” Jennings said.
The Treatment Plant is authorized to discharge up to 181 million gallons a day of treated wastewater into the Sacramento River, representing 85% of all wastewater discharged into the Sacramento River and 60% of the total volume of municipal wastewater discharged within the Delta. The Sacramento River in the vicinity of the discharge is identified as an Impaired Waterbody and Toxic Hot Spot and is essential habitat and crucial migration corridor for five species listed pursuant to state or federal endangered species acts. Sensitive life stages of listed species are present twelve months of the year.