Coastal residents opposing plans by two sewage treatment plants to reduce the quality of waste water discharged into the ocean off Cardiff won a victory this week when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency agreed to hold a hearing and investigate their concerns.

William Mueller, an attorney representing the citizens' group People for a Clean Ocean, said the EPA's decision will delay and may ultimately prevent the reduction of treatment standards by Escondido and San Diego County, which together discharge 13 million gallons of sewage daily into the sea.

"This is a great victory because it means an automatic stay on their permits (to lower standards)," Mueller said. "We are very pleased the EPA saw fit to look into some of our concerns."

Issues the EPA will address during its administrative review of the case include the impact lowered treatment standards would have on marine life, water quality, and recreational opportunities in and near the water. The effectiveness of a program designed to monitor the impact of sewage on the ocean will also be studied.

On Monday, representatives of the Clean Ocean group will press their fight on another front when they ask the Regional Water Quality Control Board to reopen a hearing on the reduced standards. Permits for the lowered treatment levels were granted in March, but opponents claim there was inadequate time for public comment.

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