The San Juan Creek Ocean Outfall is a key component to a regional infrastructure system that safely treats and disposes of south Orange County's wastewater. Water that runs down drains from sinks, showers and toilets in more than 185,000 local homes and businesses is diverted to one of four treatment facilities operated by the South Orange County Wastewater Authority or our members. SOCWA uses a portion of these flows to produce recycled water for irrigation and industrial purposes.
The remaining wastewater, known as effluent, is treated to strict state and federal environmental health standards and is discharged into the ocean several miles off the coast via one of SOCWA's two ocean outfalls. The San Juan Creek Ocean Outfall in Dana Point carries approximately 52 percent of the effluent generated in South County.
SOCWA takes our responsibility to protect the coast and local watersheds very seriously, and our efforts to treat and safely
dispose of south Orange County's wastewater are key steps in
safeguarding our region's environment and the local economy.
SOCWA monitors the local coastline to ensure the wastewater
discharged offshore through the San Juan Creek Ocean
Outfall does not pose health or environmental risks. We take
samples up to twice per week at 18 monitoring stations in
the surf zone and at off-shore locations. The samples are tested
and then reported to the Orange County Health Care Agency.
SOCWA's discharge of treated wastewater into the ocean is
regulated by the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control
Board, and requires a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination
System (NPDES) permit. Since its construction in 1978,
the San Juan Creek Ocean Outfall has regularly been in
compliance with all provisions of its NPDES permit, which
are designed to protect the beneficial use of marine waters,
marine life, swimmers, surfers and
other ocean recreational uses.
About the NPDES Permit
SOCWA's discharge of highly treated wastewater into the ocean via the San Juan Creek Ocean Outfall is regulated
by the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board,
and requires a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination
System (NPDES) permit. NPDES permits are mandated
for renewal every five years, and require the discharge
meets all applicable Federal Clean Water Act and California
Ocean Plan water quality standards. The permit implements
rigorous monitoring requirements designed to ensure
public health and environmental protection.
SOCWA's Permit Renewal
SOCWA filed for renewal of the San Juan CreekOcean Outfall NPDES permit as required in
April 2011. In our permit application, SOCWA
requested approval to discharge an additional
0.38 million gallons of effluent per day. This
would allow us to accommodate additional brine
disposal from the proposed expansion of South
Coast Water District's Groundwater Recovery
Facility. If granted, the permitted flow would
increase from 36.8 million gallons per day to 37.2
million gallons per day. Although the average
daily discharge from the San Juan Creek Ocean
Outfall was only 17.3 million gallons per day in
2009, this excess capacity would be needed to
safely accommodate rare high-peak situations.
The San Diego Regional Water Quality Control
Board is currently writing SOCWA's new San
Juan Creek Ocean Outfall NPDES permit. A draft
permit should be available for public review and
comment in early 2012, and the final permit is
anticipated to be considered for adoption shortly
thereafter. The existing NPDES discharge permit
will remain in effect until a new permit is adopted
by the Regional Board.