(Photo by Dublin San Ramon Sanitary District)

State Water Board Approves New Sanitary Sewer System Waste Discharge Requirements

After four years of discussion and debate new WDR regulations are here
By CWEA Staff, Regulations

Discussions on updating the Sanitary Sewer System regulations have been ongoing over the last four years and after a four-hour State Water Board meeting, the new regulations were approved unanimously, and implementation now begins.

Originally implemented in 2006, the reissued Waste Discharge Requirements (WDR) was debated and discussed during the December 6th Board meeting in a series of back-and-forth conversations leading to a few last-minute clarifications and edits. Board members, staff and stakeholders discussed who can sign off on plans, how quickly implementation should begin, and how lateral spills should be calculated and reported. 

Wastewater industry leaders from CASA, BACWA, SCAP, and CVCWA advocated for clarifications during the Board’s comment period and encouraged staff to continue outreach and technical support for agencies during the implementation stage.

“We are about 85% in agreement which is pretty good in a process like this, and I appreciate everyone’s good faith efforts in making this work,” said Joaquin Esquivel during the meeting, Chair of the State Water Board.

“Looking back the 2006 (WDR) order has been very effective at reducing spills around the state and there has been a dramatic reduction in spills,” said Mary Cousins, Regulatory Program Manager for BACWA. “We’re proud of the work our agencies have done to improve and professionalize sewer system management.”

Regulations Begin in June

The reissued WDR will go into effect in June 2023, and compliance requirements will immediately kick in. The State is encouraging agencies to review the requirements and new elements for updated Spill Emergency Response Plans (SERP) and reporting.

The Board expressed concern with implementation support and training for medium and small agencies, including disadvantaged communities. They asked staff and stakeholders to consider ways to support those agencies and towns with low or no-cost training and technical assistance.

The last items discussed and edited included:

  • New Category 4 spills and the frequency and file type for reporting – State Water Board staff heard concerns about the hours of paperwork and looked to streamline the process. The Board agreed with reducing the cost of compliance and noted a preference for data analytics upload to CIWQS and replaced PDF forms with digital formats such as spreadsheets.
  • Requirements for the Legally Responsible Officer (LRO) – ensuring there is a person or their designee who can sign off on plans and meets the standards by holding a professional license; CWEA certification; or similar education and experience.
  • Requirements for sampling a sanitary sewer spill was extended from 12 hours to 18 hours to avoid any late night lab sampling requirements.

“This has been a remarkable experience,” said Board member Sean Maguire. “I’ve been on the Board four years now, and this order has always been part of my experience as a Board member. Watching it grow and evolve I have been so impressed with staff’s engagement with the stakeholders group and really listening to their thoughts and concerns.

“I know California has been a leader on (collection systems management). I remember the days of CMOM and the US EPA thinking about these issues and California was the one who really stepped up and this represents the next logical step,” said Maguire.

The Board asked staff to work with stakeholders to develop an implementation plan and report back on progress within the next six months.

What do CWEA members think?

Let us know your thoughts on the new WDR and suggestions on implementation and training.

January 11th Summit Partners WDR Webinar

Be sure to join the Summit Partners for our January 11th webinar dedicated to sharing the latest information about the new regulations and watch for a large batch of CWEA collection system training events online and in-person coming soon Register for the webinar at bit.ly/jan-11-wdr