Monday August 21, 2023

The Mercury News

The largest sources of nutrient pollution and algae blooms in the San Francisco Bay — 37 different sewage treatment plants — are cleaning up their act.

Faced with two blooms called “red tides,” deadly to marine life, officials will soon recommend the first-ever restrictions on the release of the nutrients, such as nitrogen, into the Bay, a vast body of water that has long seemed resilient to trouble.

Nitrogen is not a toxin; it is necessary for a healthy ecosystem. But too much of it, discharged in wastewater from human urine, sets off a complex series of events that causes too much algae to grow, which depletes oxygen and kills marine life. Last year, a harmful bloom caused piles of stinking fish corpses to wash ashore. This summer, a smaller bloom appeared and then vanished.

“The science is telling us that we need to reduce nutrient loads as quickly as possible,” said Eileen White, executive officer for the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board, which regulates sewage treatment plants. “What has happened is a game-changer.”

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