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San Diego’s $1 billion plan to upgrade its sewage infrastructure during the next six years has received its final stamp of approval. The Department of Justice and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which had joined two local environmental groups in a lawsuit against the city, filed the final settlement in federal court today.

The city had previously entered into two temporary agreements to address the problem while waiting for a long-term funding source. The city got that source this year when the City Council approved a 35 percent increase for wastewater bills.

As part of the settlement, the city must repair or replace 250 miles of sewer pipes by 2013; upgrade and repair several sewage pump stations and secure all 5,800 manhole covers throughout the city. The City Council had signed off on the plan in May.

The settlement concludes a case first brought when the Surfrider Foundation and San Diego Coastkeeper sued the city in 2001 under the federal Clean Water Act, seeking to reduce the city’s sewage spills, which were then occurring once daily on average. They have decreased 83 percent since then.

Bruce Reznik, Coastkeeper’s executive director, said the case had effectively been concluded, but that the court filing was a final milestone.

“You never know what a judge is going to do,” Reznik said. “Even though we viewed it as pretty much done when the City Council approved it, it’s good that it’s official.”

ROB DAVIS

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