Thursday, July 19 , 2018, 12:38 am | Fair 64º


Local News

Santa Barbara Charges Ahead With $31.4 Million Wastewater Treatment Plant Upgrade

The Santa Barbara City Council on Tuesday approved $31.4 million in contracts to substantially upgrade the El Estero Wastewater Treatment Plant.

“This facility is probably the most significant facility in the protection of the environment and public health,” said Joshua Haggmark, water resources manager for the city.

“It has reached the end of its useful life and a lot of the parts need to be replaced.”

The sewage water comes to the plant from four different pipes, 30 feet underground in the city.

The plant, which was built in 1978, treats sewage water and then disposes it into the ocean or turns it into reclaimed water that is used for some irrigation.

Every day, the plant treats the water and strips away a variety of items, including Legos, diapers, plastic toys, sand and coffee grounds. 

Crew will replace the aging infrastructure — the pipes, pumps and blowers — with the goal of increasing energy efficiency, improving flow distribution and increasing operational flexibility, perhaps for an expanded use of recycled water. 

Haggmark said in a perfect world, the best way to build a treatment plant of this magnitude would be be to build a new one, then knock the current one down, but the city can’t afford to do that. 

“This is major open heart surgery,”​ Haggmark said. 

​Councilman Gregg Hart asked whether the new plant would be capable of turning sewage water into potable water.

“Are we making sure we are poised for the next evolution of the system beyond the fact that we are just state of the art for our use today?” Hart asked.

Haggmark assured him that the new plant would accommodate future needs, even though he said treatment for potable water is about a decade away. 

Crews are expected to start building in May 2016 and construction should be completed by summer 2018.

“We feel we can’t wait any longer to get this project going,”​ Haggmark said.

Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider also emphasized the magnitude and necessity of the project.

“This is a big deal,” she said. 

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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