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EPA proposes to not renew American Samoa wastewater treatment plants' variances / Tentative decisions find Utulei and Tafuna plants do not meet requirements for variance from secondary treatment

Release Date: 01/15/2009
Contact Information: Dean Higuchi, 808-541-2711,

(01/15/09) HONOLULU – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today proposed to deny renewal of the permit variances which exempted American Samoa’s Utulei and Tafuna wastewater treatment plants from full secondary treatment requirements.

“Today we have made tentative determinations that both wastewater plants do not meet the Clean Water Act requirements,” said Wayne Nastri, the EPA's Administrator for the Pacific Southwest region. “We welcome public comment on our proposal, and will continue to work with the American Samoa government to protect the vital water resources of the island."

The Utulei and Tafuna plants are operating under variances from secondary treatment. If the EPA’s proposal becomes final, the plants will be required to upgrade to full secondary treatment.

Primary treatment generally involves screening out large floating objects, such as rags and sticks, removing grit, such as cinders, sand and small stones, and allowing wastewater to settle, followed by the removal of collected solids. When secondary treatment is used, primary-treated wastewater receives additional treatment where a large portion of the organic matter in the wastewater is removed by making use of the bacteria in the sewage to consume most of the waste’s organic matter.

The federal Clean Water Act generally requires municipal wastewater treatment plants to use secondary treatment. Amendments to the act in 1977 allow for variances from secondary treatment for marine discharges, provided the plant meets primary treatment requirements, water quality standards and other specific criteria as part of section 301(h) of the act. These variances are sometimes referred to as 301(h) waivers.

The EPA’s tentative decision will be available for public comment through March 6, 2009. A public hearing on the tentative decision will be scheduled based on input from the community. After the completion of the public comment period, the EPA will consider all public comments and make a final decision on the variance application.

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