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2006 Wastewater News


Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts to pay $2.5 million to avoid law suits over 800,000 gallon sewage spill

The massive spill earlier this year sent more than 800,000 gallons of sewage into the Pacific Ocean and coastal groundwater supplies. The agency's agreement with the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board and Santa Monica Baykeeper avoids what was expected to be a prolonged legal fight over the spill, which was the largest into the Santa Monica Bay in a decade. The Jan. 15 spill resulted in 65,000 gallons of untreated wastewater flowing into the ocean, and an additional 780,000 gallons reaching groundwater supplies beneath Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach. The exact cause of the spill has not been made known. It closed beaches for several days. But a preliminary county investigation found that all four safeguards designed to prevent a major sewage spill failed at the pumping station. Los Angeles Times_ 12/29/06

Environmental lobby group says Australia's New South Wales government 'ignoring' support for recycled water

A poll in The Australian newspaper has shown 70 per cent of people surveyed would drink recycled water, as long as it had been treated to the same quality as existing water supplies. State Water Utilities Minister David Campbell says there will be no need for recycled waste water to help boost the state's drinking water, as the State Government has other measures in place. Jeff Angel from the Total Environment Centre says the Government is not listening. The Australian/ 12/26/06

November, 2006

Federal judge OKs Los Angeles sludge transfer to Kern County, California

Los Angeles appeared to win a round Monday in its legal battle to keep dumping 250,000 tons of sewage sludge every year on farmland near Bakersfield. U.S. District Judge Gary Feess said he planned to issue a written ruling within a few days granting a preliminary injunction in favor of the city and its co-plaintiffs, including the sanitation districts for Los Angeles and Orange counties. The judge's comments came in a case brought by the city of Los Angeles challenging a ban overwhelmingly approved in June by Kern County voters that would halt the dumping. The law, known as Measure E, was spurred by concerns that the processed human waste could contaminate underground water reserves, damaging agriculture and leading to serious public health problems. Los Angeles Times_ 11/14/06 (logon required)

Florida's Broward County may replenish underground water supply with treated sewage

Under pressure to accommodate growth without drawing water from the Everglades, Broward County is considering a plan to replenish underground sources of drinking water by discharging treated sewage into canals. The county's environmental staff has drafted a proposal to lower water-quality standards for canals so they could accept highly treated sewage without exceeding legal pollution levels. But County Commissioner Kristin Jacobs and a group of environmentalists are protesting the plan, saying it would pollute canals with nitrogen and phosphorus, ruin wildlife habitat and destroy fishing spots. They say the county should pay to better clean the sewage so it could be discharged into the canals without impairing water quality. Sun-Sentinel_ 11/3/06

October, 2006

Texas water planners pin future hopes on wastewater reuse

When the toilet flushes, water goes down the drain and out of the minds of most people. But now that state water planners are banking on the reuse of wastewater to help provide for a growing population, just exactly where that “used” water goes is gaining importance. In its 2007 Water for Texas report, the Texas Water Development Board predicted the population of Texas will literally double over the next 50 years. According to the recommendations of more than 450 water planning group members from across the state, “If Texas does not implement the state water plan, about 85 percent of the state’s projected population will not have enough water by 2060." Part of the Texas Water Development Board’s strategy to deal with more users and less water focuses specifically on the reuse of wastewater.  Weatherford Democrat_ 10/25/06

Used grease will help power Millbrae, California wastewater treatment plant

Fast food may not be good for you, but the grease it produces will soon replace fossil fuels at Millbrae's wastewater treatment plant. By the end of the month, leftover cooking grease collected from Bay Area restaurants will allow the plant to provide 80 percent of its own power, saving taxpayers money and cutting down on fossil fuel emissions. The $5.5 million upgrade to the plant will create a receiving dock for trucks to unload 3,000 gallons of grease a day. Microorganisms in the facility's existing solid-waste digester will eat their way through the grease, significantly boosting the amount of methane the plant uses to power its generators.

Mercury News_ 10/13/06

Using DNA to sniff out the source of the 'Malibu Smell'

Malibu's coastline is considered the Riviera of California, but the celebrity-studded city's famed beaches are often among the most dangerously fouled in the state. Officials suspect some of the septic tanks that handle the household sewage of Malibu's multimillion-dollar canyon homes are spilling pollutants into the oak-shaded creeks that tumble down to Santa Monica Bay, tainting Surfrider and other famous beaches. Los Angeles County plans soon to begin using DNA testing of sea water off Escondido and Ramirez canyons. The goal will first be to discern whether the waste is human or animal. Officials say they then plan to follow the trail wherever it leads, even if that means to the backyards and horse stables of well-heeled beachside and canyon residents. Owners of suspect systems will be required to upgrade them or face fines as high as $10,000 a day. In May, Malibu suffered a black eye in the annual California beach survey released by Santa Monica-based Heal the Bay. Escondido Beach "was the most polluted beach in the history of our report card," said Mark Gold, Heal the Bay's executive director. Los Angeles Times_ 10/5/06 (logon required)

September, 2006

New Frankford, Maryland water plant idle for more than two and a half years

Work is 95 percent complete on the $2.1 million project, yet it hasn't pumped a single ounce of water to the town's customers. Originally, a by-product of the water filtration process known as decant was meant to be disposed of through a county sewer hook-up -- something the county does not allow. Now the mistake may end up costing $500,000 in state grants.

Daily Times_ 9/24/06

Somerset, Rhode Island to recycle waste water through power plant

Officials from the town and the Brayton Point Power Station last night signed an innovative agreement to let the power plant tap up to 1.28 million gallons per day of treated sewer water from the town that would otherwise be dumped into the Taunton River. The effluent, also known as "gray water" or "reclaimed water," will be used to help operate Brayton Point's sulfur-scrubbing system, set to begin operations in October 2007. Because the power plant would otherwise have to use town drinking water, the agreement means less strain on the town's water supply and gives Brayton a less-expensive source of mostly clean water. Providence Journal_ 9/8/06

August, 2006

Following Philadelphia's 'green' formula for storm water runoff

Big pipes to drain off storm water aren't necessarily your friend. They may even be the reason the stream or river near your home isn't fit for swimming. The green revolutionaries of Philadelphia's Office of Watersheds are expounding a new philosophy of sustainable water management — to adapt city parks, roadways, school sites, lawns and yards so that they absorb and slowly filter out as much rainfall and storm water as feasible. Why? First, to stop storm water from flooding drainage systems and sending untreated sewage into local rivers and streams. Second, to minimize the fast, storm-induced runoff by pollutants that gather on a city's concrete and asphalt surfaces. Finally, heavy storms choke off streams and pollute the waterways with sediment from scraped-off land, construction sites and improperly protected farm fields. Houston Chronicle_ 8/13/06

New South Wales, Australia, councils consider recycled sewage water if drought get worse

One in three regional councils in NSW would consider using recycled waste water for domestic consumption if the state's water crisis was to worsen. A survey by The Sunday Telegraph found 35 out of 110 councils would be prepared to recycle sewage water for everyday use if drought conditions continued to dry up supply. This is despite NSW Premier Morris Iemma ruling out a referendum on the issue. The Age_ 8/5/06

July, 2006

Southeast Queensland, Australia to vote on drinking recycled wastewater

Queensland Premier Peter Beattie announced the referendum following Saturday's convincing 'no' vote in the drought-stricken city of Toowoomba over drinking water recycled from sewage effluent. Residents from Gympie south to the Gold Coast and west to Toowoomba will express their support for drinking their own waste water in the referendum to be held on March 29, to coincide with the Brisbane City Council government election. Mr Beattie said the controversial process would only be implemented to further bolster the government's strategies to address south-east Queensland's dire water shortage if residents approved. The Age_ 7/30/06

'Toilet to tap' proposal calls for recycled water for San Diego

Treated sewage would be used to augment reservoirs used to supply drinking water to San Diego's increasingly growing population in a plan presented to a City Council committee today. The proposal, dubbed "toilet to tap," is one of six strategies outlined in a nearly $1 million Water Department plan to increase the amount of recycled water used in San Diego. The council rejected a similar proposal in 1999. Without endorsing the plan, the Natural Resources and Culture Committee voted to forward it to the full City Council for consideration. The year-long study was compiled by a 67-member Assembly on Water Reuse, composed of representatives from the offices of elected officials, community groups, business organizations and environmentalists. North County Times_ 7/27/06

June, 2006

North American drinking water fight: providers seething over Brita filter ads in Canada that imply tap water comes from toilets

Canadian and American water utility associations and John Blatherwick, chief medical health officer for Vancouver Coastal Health, have all complained about the campaign and asked Brita to withdraw the TV commercial that provoked their anger. Brita has refused. The Canadian Water and Wastewater Association has filed a complaint with the Advertising Standards Council. The offending commercial shows a woman in a kitchen with a glass of water on the table. She leaves the room and you hear the sound of a toilet flushing. In time with the sound, the water in the glass drains away, then fills again like a toilet tank would. An announcer says the toilet water is the same as the tap water, and asks, "Don't you deserve a better quality to drink?" Vancouver Sun_ 6/10/06

May, 2006

Pacific Northwest lab mercury sponge technology now available for commercial use

A material designed to capture and remove mercury and other toxic substances from industrial waste streams is now available for commercial use.  Battelle has licensed the SAMMS™ technology developed at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to Steward Environmental Solutions of Chattanooga, Tenn. Battelle operates the laboratory for the Department of Energy and transfers lab-developed technologies to the marketplace through licenses and other means.  SAMMS™, or Self-Assembled Monolayers on Mesoporous Supports, is a technology that can be tailored to selectively remove metal contaminants without creating hazardous waste or by-products. Steward intends to initially market use of the SAMMS™ for treating stack emissions from coal fired power plants, process industry and municipal facilities.  In tests conducted at PNNL, 99.9 percent of mercury in simulated waste water was successfully removed. That reduction places the mercury levels well below the Environmental Protection Agency’s discharge limits. This could equate to significant savings in disposal charges for users with mercury or other toxic metals in their facility waste streams, said Rick Skaggs, PNNL commercialization lead.  Azonano.com_5/25/06

Threat seen from antibacterial soap chemicals that end up in sewage sludge and water

Tons of chemicals in antibacterial soaps used in the bathrooms and kitchens of virtually every home are being released into the environment, yet no government agency is monitoring or regulating them in water supplies or food. About 75% of a potent bacteria-killing chemical that people flush down their drains survives treatment at sewage plants, and most of that ends up in sludge spread on farm fields, according to Johns Hopkins University research. Every year, it says, an estimated 200 tons of two compounds — triclocarban and triclosan — are applied to agricultural lands nationwide. The findings, in a study published last week in Environmental Science & Technology, add to the growing concerns of many scientists that the Environmental Protection Agency needs to address thousands of pharmaceuticals and consumer product chemicals that wind up in the environment when they are flushed into sewers. Los Angeles Times_ 5/10/06 (logon required)

Cost of cleaner water in New Hampshire: $40million

Upgrading the Pierce Island sewer plant to comply with a recent federal ruling will probably cost ratepayers about $40 million, but not anytime soon, Portsmouth, N.H., officials said last week.  The US Environmental Protection Agency sent a letter to the city last month saying it would not renew a longstanding waiver that had allowed the plant to operate outside Clean Water Act standards. Making the necessary improvements would mean several years' worth of scheduling, negotiations, design, and engineering before construction starts or rates go up, said City Manager John Bohenko. The Pierce Island plant, which is a primary treatment facility, dumps 4.5 million gallons of partially treated wastewater into the mouth of the Piscataqua River each day. The EPA has said that it will require the plant to add another level of cleansing, called secondary treatment, as required under the Clean Water Act, which would lead to a 25 percent cleaner discharge into the river.  Options for meeting the EPA's demands include diverting some of the waste water now treated at Pierce Island to one of the city's other treatment facilities. Another option is building a new plant on the mainland and dismantling the Pierce Island plant altogether.  Boston Globe_ 5/7/7

April, 2006

Ashghal to undertake waste water management project in Qatar
The Qatar Public Works Authority (Ashghal) has embarked upon a major initiative in the waste water management sector.  Its projected quantum of treated waste water for the next five year is 150,000 million cubic litre. By 2016 it would be a whopping 345,000 million cubic litre, said Dr Ghazy Abdel Kerim, the Technical Expert with the Ashghal here today. The quality of the treated waste water would be improved according to the requirement of the Supreme Council of Environment and Natural Reserves. The quality of the treated waste water would be on par with the international standards.  The treated waste water would be mainly utilised for irrigation and maintaining the public parks. The Ashaghal has also taken up a major initiative to collect the surface water and to re-use it after the treatment.  The Peninsula_4/13/06

Oozing sewage pollutes 'green' Costa Rica

Tourists once flocked to the surf and wildlife of Tarcoles on Costa Rica's Pacific coast, but the filth of a sewage-rich river that oozes through Tarcoles has driven them away. The lack of sewage treatment for most its people is typical of much of Latin America and other poor areas of the world, where improper sanitation poses health risks and destroys valuable resources. Almost all the sewage from Costa Rica's urbanized central valley is pumped untreated upstream into the Tarcoles River. Now the Costa Rican government hopes to clean up the river by constructing a waste water treatment plant in the capital of San Jose about 100 km (62 miles) inland. The plant will handle 3,600 cubic meters (127,100 cubic ft) of sewage a day to cover around 65 percent of the central valley's population, or more than 1 million people. Reuters_ 4/10/06

Sewage, rain wash Hawaii vacations down the drain

The glum expression on Colleen Groat's face said it all. The 48-year-old Canadian had spent six months planning her first vacation in Hawaii, and not once during two weeks here did she set foot in the water. Her trips to the beach were met with signs that read: "WARNING. No swimming. No fishing. Sewage contaminated water." The famously blue waters of Oahu remained brown through most of Tuesday, tainted by 48 million gallons of untreated wastewater spilled during one of the rainiest stretches in Hawaii's recent history. Los Angeles Times_ 4/5/06

February, 2006

Michigan's Hamburg Township concerned by high salt levels in wastewater

High levels of salt discovered in test wells at the township's wastewater treatment plant have prompted the officials to take quick action that may include going door-to-door to inspect residents' water softeners. Supervisor Cindy Pine said as many as a quarter of the 2,500 sanitary sewer customers in the township may have their water softeners hooked up to discharge saltwater into the sewer system. The problem was discovered last Tuesday, when tests reveled sodium chloride levels as high as 540 milligrams per liter, and the allowable level is only 120. The tests were made while applying to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to renew the sewer plant's groundwater discharge permit. Detroit News_ 2/23/06

St. Cloud, Minnesota issues water alert after E.coli bacteria tests
The city of St. Cloud issued a drinking water warning Monday evening after tests found a possible contamination of E. coli bacteria, a city official said. The cause wasn't immediately known. E. coli can make people sick, especially those with weakened immune systems like children and the elderly. It can cause diarrhea, cramps, nausea, headaches or other symptoms. No one had reported being sick Monday. The presence of fecal coliforms and E. coli in water indicates the water may be contaminated with human or animal wastes. AP/West Central Tribune_ 2/21/06

January, 2006

Traces of prescription drugs from recycled wastewater found in southern California drinking water aquifers
As new technology enables detection of infinitesimally smaller doses of chemicals in the environment, Southern California water-quality officials have learned that an array of hardy pharmaceuticals are defying even the most sophisticated sewage treatments in use. Wherever there is sewage, there are traces of whatever pills people have popped: antibiotics and antipsychotics, birth-control hormones and beta blockers, Viagra and Valium. "There is no place on Earth exempted from having pharmaceuticals and steroids in its wastewater," said Shane Snyder, head toxicologist at Las Vegas' water provider, the Southern Nevada Water Authority, and one of the nation's leading experts on pharmaceuticals in water. "This is clearly an issue that is global, and we're going to see more and more of these chemicals in the environment; no doubt about it." In southern California, the Whittier Narrows plant, which has operated in El Monte since 1962, was the nation's first reclamation plant. Since then, nearly half a trillion gallons of treated sewage from Whittier Narrows and two other county plants have replenished the Central Basin aquifer beneath the San Gabriel Valley, which supplies water to 4 million people. Los Angeles Times_ 1/30/06 (logon required)

Ventura, California fined $700,000 by water board for wastewater discharges into Santa Clara River

The Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board cited the city for 244 violations of the discharge permit for its wastewater treatment plant from February 2000 to July 2005. In announcing the fine, however, the board's executive officer, Jonathan Bishop, said "They have been working diligently to bring themselves into compliance. Since July, they've had one violation, so we've seen great improvement at the plant." A city official said most of the violations, which allowed elevated levels of mercury, zinc, cyanide, lead and coliform to flow into the river's estuary, occurred as Ventura was completing a $14-million seismic upgrade of the facility, near Ventura Harbor. Don Davis, Ventura's utilities manager, said the 48-year-old plant has the capacity to clean 14 million gallons of water daily and handles more than 95% of the city's wastewater needs. Los Angeles Times_ 1/21/06 (logon required)

New look at glass to treat waste water
Trials have indicated that recycled glass could reduce the cost of filtration and is also kinder to the environment than traditional materials.  Water companies will hear the results of the trials at a seminar to be held in Leeds, UK next month. They will hear how a series of independent trials funded by WRAP – the Waste & Resources Action Programme – have indicated that recycled glass filtration (RGFM) improves the quality of effluent, compared to traditional sand. Leeds Today_1/19/06

Los Angeles sewage system failures probed; miles of beaches closed

Joe Haworth, spokesman for the Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County, said hundreds of thousands of gallons of raw sewage from Sunday's 2-million-gallon spill may have reached the ocean, but beaches should reopen Wednesday. This morning, sanitation officials still had no explanation for the chain of failures that led to what they are calling the largest sewage spill into Santa Monica Bay in a decade. A power station, which is supposed to pump raw sewage to a treatment station in Carson, has connections to Southern California Edison lines as well as a backup generator, but all of them failed. An alarm system is supposed to warn the Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts when the pumping station shuts down, but it also failed. "This is a very severe event for us," said Philip Friess, the head of the sewage agency, which serves 78 cities. Although sewage spills are not uncommon along the Southern California coast, experts said the Manhattan Beach spill was the largest in years. In 1998, a series of powerful winter storms dumped 50 million gallons of sewage into the bay over several months, but Sunday's incident was considered highly significant as a single-day spill. Los Angeles Times_ 1/17/06 (logon required)

Kern County, California voters seek to block Los Angeles and other cities from trucking treated sewage to farmland
The ballot measure could go before voters in June, unless it is adopted into law by the Kern County Board of Supervisors before then. Half a dozen sanitation agencies from Los Angeles and Orange counties ship 450,000 tons of treated sewage each year to Kern County, more than half of which — 273,000 tons — comes from the city of Los Angeles. The sludge, also called biosolids, is what is left over after treatment plants clean and remove water from sewage. It is used to fertilize soil for the farming of produce that is then fed to cows and other animals. None of the produce is used for human consumption. Federal and state environmental laws have stopped cities and counties from dumping the sludge in the ocean and have severely limited the ability to dispose of the waste in local landfills, according to John Collins, a Fountain Valley city councilman and former board chairman for the Orange County Sanitation District. Kern County leaders say the treated sewage presents a health risk because it contains heavy metals, industrial waste and other toxic substances. Los Angeles Times_ 1/2/06 (logon required)




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