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Water Watchdogs Win Ruling On Treated Water Lost To The Ocean

The Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant next to Dockweiler State Beach. (Don Searles)
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Once the wastewater from showers and toilets is cleaned, a lot of it flows to the ocean. Much of what flows in the L.A. River to the Pacific is water discharged by four local wastewater treatment plants -- about 270 million gallons a day.

An environmental group called that wasteful, and sued state regulators for issuing a permit that lets these water discharges continue. In a ruling this week, a Superior Court judge said a state water quality board failed to analyze the reasonableness of letting the treated water go to the ocean.

The group, Los Angeles Waterkeeper, says the ruling should send the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Board back to re-analyze wastewater discharge permits issued to plants operated by the cities of Los Angeles, Burbank and Glendale.

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The group sued in 2017 over a continuation of the permits, saying the board should have looked at other ways of using the water, potentially recycling it for drinking water -- a move that can reduce the amount of costly water imported to the region.

A spokeswoman for the water quality board said officials would not comment on the litigation, and had not yet decided whether to file an appeal.

L.A. Sanitation, which operates three of the plants, says the wastewater is being recycled because it can be used for landscaping and industrial purposes, freeing up drinking water supplies, so it’s not really wasted.