After more than five years of fact finding, the folks from Heal the Ocean (HTO) released a sweeping report this week on the good, the bad, and the ugly of wastewater discharge along the entire coast of California. What originally started as an effort to chart the compliance efforts and efficiency of the dozens of wastewater treatment facilities and outfall pipes along the coast of California that pump their treated product out into the Pacific Ocean morphed into something much bigger along the way. The final product is an unprecedented look at inherent and often overlooked shortcomings of our collective wastewater habits. “This is meant to be a source for the entire State of California,” explained Heal the Ocean Executive Director Hillary Hauser this week of the 128-page document and its accompanying interactive Google Earth and GIS maps, “A wastewater treatment plant is the most important environmental tool we have for the ocean, period. And we have to help them.”
At the root of HTO’s report is the reality that, in this day and age of water shortages and rising costs, Californians use 1.3 billion gallons of perfectly fine drinking water every day to flush down the 134 tons of waste they produce in the same time period. Complicating this is the fact that current wastewater standards and facilities rarely, if ever, monitor and treat for the types of emerging pollutants (i.e., common stuff found in your shampoo, toothpaste, pharmaceuticals, etc.) that do big time damage to our oceans. To that end, not only does the report explain what specific facilities are treating for, but it also lists the various things that they need to become more savvy about in the future. “Once you get into this and then you go look at the ingredients in your shampoo or soap at home, you won’t believe it. It is out of control,” said Hauser.
For the full report and for detailed explanations of the nefarious everyday ingredients compiled by HTO’s Katherine Engel, go to healtheocean.org/research.