Zero Discharge

Surfrider is concerned that Santa Barbara County’s wastewater and waste-management programs and policies are not as environmentally friendly as they could be. The City of Santa Barbara’s El Estero sewage plant, for example, takes in over 10 million gallons of industrial toxic sewage daily. Of those, less than 1 million are recycled. The remainder is discharged as partially treated toxic sewage into the ocean.

A more sustainable option, financially and environmentally, would be for the City of Santa Barbara to install zero-discharge wastewater treatment systems in local businesses. The benefit would be reduced treatment load to El Estero, and reduced toxic pollution into the marine and beach ecosystems.

There are many examples of other cities successfully managing their wastewater and solid waste for over 15 years, including Sweden’s city sewer plants, which produce net profits each month by converting sewage to fuel and electricity, recycling almost 100% of the water, and producing zero pollution. In addition, there are Portland, Oregon’s successful efforts to compost organic waste, as reported by the Wall Street Journal in June.

We support wastewater treatment and reuse as an option to discharge, and oppose any plans to extend the life of Tajiguas landfill, which will encourage further industrialization of the Gaviota Coast.

Sandy Lejune is chair of Santa Barbara Surfrider, and James Smallwood is a committee member.

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