Legal View: State Water Board Adopts Sanitary Sewer Systems Waste Discharge Requirements

By Jaycee Dean, Nicole Granquist, and Melissa Thorme, Downey Brand, Regulations
After nearly four years of negotiations, the California State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) considered and unanimously adopted the Statewide Sanitary Sewer Systems General Waste Discharge Requirements Order Reissuance (SSS WDR) with late changes on December 6, 2022.
The SSS WDR regulates sanitary sewer systems designed to convey sewage longer than one mile in length, and addresses reporting and other requirements in response to sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs). This renewed version of the SSS WDR will serve as the new regulatory mandate for operation and maintenance for those systems, superseding the State Water Board’s previous 2006 order, State Water Board Order No. 2006-0003-DWQ.

The SSS WDR represents the culmination of years of collaborative development between State Water Board staff, the public, and stakeholders. The State Water Board began public outreach for the reissuance process in 2018, and issued an informal draft Order in February 2021, delineating more prescriptive requirements than appeared in the prior permit.

Change Sheets

Significant concerns from the regulated community largely regarding feasibility and cost of compliance were expressed, necessitating further input from stakeholders before additional revisions were released in October 2022.  Continued public comment and guidance from stakeholders resulted in the release of two change sheets prior to the December 6th State Water Board hearing.

An additional third change sheet created during that meeting incorporated further changes to mitigate concerns raised in oral comments.

The proposed SSS WDR and the two change sheets issued prior to the December 6th meeting are available here.  Change Sheet #3 is currently only available through video format here.

Some of the key requirements adopted in the new SSS WDR include:

  • Expanded regulation to protect waters of the State (g., expanding the prohibition on discharge from a sanitary system to include waters of the State and requiring SSMPs to identify deficiencies in addressing spills to waters of the State);
  • Planning requirements to address system-specific climate change impacts;
  • Requirements for coordinated inter-agency response to sanitary spills;
  • Reduction in the frequency of Sewer System Management Plan (SSMP) updates, local audits, and lateral spill reporting; and
  • Modifying receiving water sampling requirements for 50,000+ gallon spills to surface waters.

The SSS WDR will become effective in May 2023.  Those regulated by the SSS WDR should carefully review the permit to begin undertaking appropriate action to ensure compliance with new or revised terms.  Attending regulatory training or trade association workshops are recommended given the detailed changes.

At the December 6th, 2022 meeting, public commenters requested the State Water Board provide further guidance for reporting requirements and also provide administrative assistance for disadvantaged communities.

Downey Brand will assist its clients with navigating these new requirements to ensure continued compliance, and we are happy to answer any questions.

This article by Downey Brand was originally posted on JD Supra and reposted here with permission.