The city received an administrative civil liability complaint by the Regional Water Board’s assistant executive officer Thursday, alleging it consistently violated the city’s wastewater treatment plant waste discharge requirements and National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit. It has also violated a Regional Water Quality Board cease and desist order, according to a press release issued by the Regional Water Quality Board.
The complaint recommends the Regional Water Board hold the city liable for $1.73 million, which pursuant to state law and policy includes mandatory minimum penalties, recovers the economic benefit and accounts for the state’s costs for prosecuting this matter, according to the release.
A majority of the violations cited in the complaint were the result of inadequately pretreated industrial wastewater from National Beef Co.’s slaughterhouse, as well as the lack of an approved pretreatment program to control the industrial discharges into the city’s plant.
According to the press release, the partially treated wastewater from the slaughterhouse contains high concentrations of ammonia, causing the city’s treatment plant to go out of compliance with its permit.
The Regional Board issued a cease and desist order which required the city to develop and implement a pretreatment program, as required by federal clean water regulations in 2008 and has yet to implement such a program, Angel said.
Although the city did establish a surcharge system to bill National Beef based on the concentrations of ammonia, biochemical oxygen demand, total suspended solids and total flow in its wastewater going to the treatment plant, according to the complaint, the city began applying the surcharges without establishing any approved pretreatment limits.
The complaint also alleges that from 2008 to 2013 the city diverted $678,000 from its wastewater fund to the city’s general fund, thus gaining an economic benefit from the city’s noncompliance to its permit. That matter is under continuing investigation, Angel said.
City Manager Rosanna Moore commented on the complaint in a statement in which she said, “City of Brawley staff and legal counsel are reviewing the content of the Colorado River Basin Regional Water Quality Control Board’s Administrative Civil Liability Complaint R7-2013-0028, dated February 28, 2013. As we work towards resolution, the city remains committed to responsible operation of the Brawley Wastewater Treatment Plant and compliance with the Regional Board’s NPDES permit.”
The city will also likely be discussing the complaint in closed session during it regularly scheduled council meeting Tuesday in the City Council chambers.
Staff Writer Celeste Alvarez can be reached at 760-337-3442 or at email@example.com