This case study presents the development and implementation of the County Sanitation Districts of Orange County (Districts) Pollution Prevention Program (P3) aimed at reducing the environmental release of pollutants. The P3 has been integrated in the Districts' environmental management program and incorporates the goals of the Districts' 30-year Master Plan called 2020 Vision. The Districts take a multi-media approach to environmental protection giving equal importance to emissions to air, water or the land. The Districts' P3 efforts, applied in combination with an aggressive Source Control Program, has resulted in significant reductions in heavy metals and other pollutant discharges to the environment.
The P3 is a major element of the Districts' Source Control Program. During the past seven years, pollution prevention (the management of waste generation or reduction of waste before it is generated) has proven to be the most effective strategy to protect the environment. The Program has resulted in reductions in influent loadings of heavy metals and other pollutants of concern, and an improving record of compliance by major industrial dischargers. The reduction in metals and other pollutants has resulted in quantifiable improvements in environmental conditions in the marine environment (in the vicinity of the discharge) several miles offshore near the ocean outfall, in reduced air emissions from the treatment plants, and in the concentrations of heavy metals in the residual biosolids produced for recycling. Long-term monitoring data shows improvements in effluent toxicity (as measured by fish survival), reductions in the concentrations of metals in sediments around the ocean outfall and long-term gradual improvements in biological conditions as measured by the number of species of benthic invertebrates. Data on the trends for each of these and other conditions, are presented along with the specific methods employed to achieve the reductions from industrial dischargers.
The successes of P3 were acknowledged by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which awarded the Districts the Administrator's national 1992 Pollution Prevention Achievement Award.