Thursday April 18, 2024

Knee Deep Times

Palo Alto’s bioreactor towers are aging out, like a lot of the clean water infrastructure constructed around the Bay Area in the 1950s-1970s. Recent wind gusts, swirling around the edges of February’s atmospheric river storms, have not been friendly to the towers either. On a March visit to the Palo Alto Regional Water Quality Control Plant, which treats 18 million gallons of wastewater every day, I could see a big chunk missing from the wall of one rusty cauldron and tumbleweeds caught in the metalwork. 

Elsewhere on the 25-acre site, the plant’s facilities are visibly undergoing a $193 million overhaul. The overhaul will help the plant meet increasing regulatory limits on the amount of nitrogen that dischargers can pipe into the shallows of San Francisco Bay.  

“The harmful algal blooms and fish kills of 2022 were a game-changer for us,” says the SF Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board’s Assistant Executive Officer Tom Mumley. The board is preparing a draft watershed-wide permit for Bay dischargers, due for release this April for board consideration in June, that would require them to reduce nitrogen loads by 40%. 

Read more >

Link copied successfully