Regional San Prepared to Fight “ESA Take” Lawsuit
Suit based on unfounded and questionable rationale; serves no environmental benefit
Sacramento — Less than five months after Sacramento Regional County Sanitation District’s formal approval of new wastewater treatment plant upgrades, the Center for Environmental Science, Accuracy and Reliability (CESAR) filed a “citizen suit” under the federal Endangered Species Act claiming that the Sacramento Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant’s current ammonia discharge causes unauthorized “take” of Delta smelt, a species listed as threatened under the ESA.
“Regional San disputes that the current ammonia discharge causes take, and we are prepared to defend that conclusion,” explained Prabhakar Somavarapu, District Engineer of Regional San. “Regional San is already proceeding with upgrading its wastewater treatment plant to substantially eliminate ammonia from our discharge on a schedule determined by state agencies to be as short as possible.” The deadline for construction of Regional San’s massive ammonia reduction project is May 2021.
Regional San is proceeding with the EchoWater Project as rapidly as possible given the necessities of engineering, design, construction, public contracting laws, and multiple other factors. It has already spent about $100 million towards this effort, and expects to issue around $150 million in initial construction contracts within the next month. “The CESAR lawsuit will not have any beneficial effect for the environment,” stated Somavarapu. “In fact, the existence of the lawsuit could create uncertainties regarding the implementation of the EchoWater Project and cause delay in completing the project, which is of great concern to our district and may adversely affect our customers.”
Regional San provides wastewater treatment and disposal for households and business within Sacramento County and the City of West Sacramento, serving approximately 1.4 million persons. The current level of treatment is known as “secondary” treatment. Regional San is regulated by and must comply with new requirements of a very strict discharge permit issued by clean water regulatory agencies under State and Federal law, the goal of which is protection of public health and the environment. Major Delta water export interests supported these new requirements, and in a 2013 settlement agreement with these parties and regulatory agencies, Regional San agreed to accept the strict permit. The major upgrades to the wastewater treatment plant will reduce by over 95 percent the amount of ammonia in the plant’s discharge to the Sacramento River. This approximately $2 billion upgrade, known as the “EchoWater Project,” is believed to be the largest public works project in the history of Sacramento County.
Regional San plans to aggressively contest the legitimacy of the lawsuit.
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Claudia Goss, Public Affairs Manager
Sacramento Regional County Sanitation District
(916) 876-6058 (Office)
(916) 599-2417 (Cell)