Treatment of Sewage
Sewage at the Point Loma Treatment Facility is only treated to advanced primary levels, which means sewage is treated by coagulation and settling of solids, but no advanced biological or other treatment is used to reduce the amount of nutrients, bacteria and other contaminants that are present in the sewage. Of the more than 16,000 sewage treatment agencies across the country, San Diego’s Point Loma Wastewater Treatment Facility is the largest agency exempt from federally mandated ‘secondary’ sewage standards. This means that the wastewater that flows from the end of the pipe at Point Loma gets less treatment than other parts of the country. The lack of more advanced treatment means that more contamination is allowed to travel from our toilets to the ocean.
In the absence of advanced end-of-pipe treatment standards, Coastkeeper decided to pursue the issue upstream – if less wastewater is sent to the treatment plant, less contamination will reach the ocean. We set a new goal, one that does not focus on increasing treatment but rather seeks to reduce and eliminate discharges to the ocean.
In 2008, Coastkeeper challenged the City of San Diego to fund an $11.8M pilot project to test the use of highly-treated wastewater as drinking water that could result in reclaiming up to 16 million gallons a day of sewage at the City’s existing North City Water Reclamation Plant that would otherwise be discharged into the ocean. Following the approval of the pilot project, in 2009 Coastkeeper and Surfrider reached a Cooperative Agreement with the City that obligates San Diego to undertake a $2M assessment of its entire sewage collection and treatment infrastructure to identify opportunities to maximize water reclamation throughout the region. Recycled water can play a vital role in ensuring San Diego’s sustainable water supply while also preventing unnecessary sewage discharge into our ocean.
We also work with the military to ensure it respects our ocean. In 2006, Coastkeeper attended the ribbon cutting for Camp Pendleton’s $40 million sewage treatment plant, built as a result of a settlement with Coastkeeper. It currently treats 800,000 gallons of sewage from the base and will eventually treat and reuse all five million gallons of sewage a day on the base.