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Wastewater Pretreatment Program


Pretreatment Program Definition 

Federal law mandates pretreatment programs. The Regional Water Quality Board mandates the program as part of El Estero Water Resource Center's permit to operate and discharge. The program's intent is to control pollutants discharged to a Publicly Owned Treatment Works (POTW) from non-domestic sources. The Clean Water Act of 1972 sets forth the following objectives: 

  • To prevent upset, interference* and pass-through** in the POTW. Specifically, the El Estero Water Resource Center. 

  • Provide protection with regard to the health and safety of the public and the environment. 

  • Provide protection of the structure and integrity of the collection system and safety for the personnel working the system. 

  • To prevent deterioration of the quality standards of the receiving waters; to prevent contamination of POTW sludge which could affect their disposal or future reuse. 

*Interference: A discharge by an Industrial User which inhibits or disrupts the treatment plant processes or operations. 
** Pass-Through: The discharge of pollutants through the treatment plant which causes a violation of any requirement of the treatment plant's permit from the State regulatory agency (the Regional Water Quality Control Board). 

The City of Santa Barbara's Wastewater Pretreatment Program oversees the issuance of permits to industries and businesses that discharge wastewater to the City's Publicly Owned Treatment Works (POTW), the El Estero Water Resource Center based on their wastewater characteristics or amount of discharge. These permits require industries to monitor pollutants of concern and comply with the City's Municipal Code with reporting schedules, along with general and specific conditions listed in their permit. Industrial pretreatment is essential to protecting the environment, the El Estero Water Resource Center, the Wastewater Collection System, and other public infrastructure.

Water being filtered

Is my company required to have a Wastewater Discharge Permit?

To determine if your company is required to have a permit to discharge wastewater to the sanitary sewer system complete an Industrial Wastewater Discharge application. Pretreatment Staff will review the completed application and notify the business if they are required to have a permit. Users can also refer to City of Santa Barbara Municipal Code 16.02.040 to review the definitions of Significant Industrial User, Categorical Industrial User, and Industrial User permitting requirements.

The City's Pretreatment Program issues the following wastewater discharge permits:

Significant Industrial User Permits: These are Tier 1 permits as listed in the City's Municipal Code. Examples include manufacturing, commercial, or industrial businesses that discharge 10,000 gallons of processed wastewater per day or have a reasonable potential, either individually or in combination with other contributing industries, of adversely affecting the POTW's operation or violating Pretreatment Standards.   

Non-significant Industrial User Permits: These are Tier II permits as listed in the City's Municipal Code. These are users that are not significant industrial users, but have wastewater discharge characteristics greater than typical domestic wastewater.

Groundwater Discharge Permits: These are Tier III permits as listed in the City's Municipal Code. These permits are often issued to groundwater remediation projects.

Temporary Discharge Permits: These permits are often issued to construction dewatering projects or short-term discharges.

Direct Discharge Permits: These permits are most often issues to pressure washing companies that discharge wastewater directly to the sanitary sewer, or companies that discharge wastewater through devices designed or intended to reduce wastewater strength.

Permit Cost and Fees

All those required to obtain a permit under the City's Municipal Code shall be required to pay fees and charges. These fees are assessed to help recover cost for pretreatment program administration, including application reviews, permit issuance, industrial waste sampling, compliance report reviews, enforcement issuance, and State permit fees.

High Strength Surcharges

Certain types of industries and businesses may discharge wastewater with high levels of certain pollutants which are more difficult to treat, therefore increasing treatment cost. The City recovers the extra cost to treat "high strength" wastewater. If analytical data determines that a user's wastewater discharge has exceeded the City's threshold for Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD), Total Suspended Solids (TSS), or Ammonia, High Strength surcharges will be assessed. More information can be found in the City's current fee resolution.


​Industrial Pretreatment Frequently Asked Questions:

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