Construction is Underway on Nutrient Optimization Project to Improve Water Quality of San Francisco Bay

October 15, 2018 Published by

Oro Loma started construction on a $25M project to advance the level of wastewater treatment it provides. The project builds on the District’s history of innovation and sound management of its pumps, pipes, and equipment. The goal of the project is to remove nutrients from the incoming wastewater.

A groundbreaking event to kick off construction of the new facility was held on October 16, 2018.

groundbreaking event

 

Why is the Nutrient Optimization Project needed?

Most treatment plants in the Bay Area were designed to remove solids and reduce oxygen demand on the environment from the incoming sewage.  Now, attention is focusing on the nutrients, because they carry the risk of causing too much algae (phytoplankton) to grow in the Bay.  Algae is an important part of the ecosystem, but too much of it can cause problems for fish and other organisms that live in the Bay.

With this project, Oro Loma becomes one of the first of 37 agencies in the Bay Area to take action in response to growing concerns about nutrient levels in the San Francisco Bay.  The new treatment process will convert nearly all incoming ammonia (from urine) to a more environmentally friendly nitrate molecule, and then convert approximately half of the nitrate to nitrogen gas, which makes up most of the Earth’s atmosphere.  The process design provides the ability to remove even more nitrate, if needed.

Historically, the San Francisco Bay has not been adversely impacted by nutrient loading because the water was turbid (muddy) and little light could reach beyond the first few feet.  As the clarity in the Bay has improved (in part due to high-performing wastewater agencies throughout the Bay Area), the risk of algae blooms, which need nutrients and light, is increasing. While obvious signs of a problem cannot be seen now, there is concern that the San Francisco Bay has reached a tipping point that might lead to impairment.

Oro Loma and other dischargers to the Bay are funding numerous scientific studies to understand the impact of nutrients on the San Francisco Bay.  The studies are designed to identify how much more nutrients we can add to the Bay, while adequately protecting the wildlife in it.  Oro Loma’s proactive efforts to reduce its nutrients load and funding of scientific studies will help insure that the San Francisco Bay remains healthy for generations to come.