Santa Barbara’s Potent Poop to Raise Rates

Santa Barbara's Water Resources Manager Joshua Haggmark stands between aeration basins at the newly renamed El Estero Water Resource Center duirng an Earth Day 2019 media tour. | Credit: Paul Wellman

For the first time, the City of Santa Barbara will be charging more to treat high-strength fecal waste, reflecting the additional impact imposed by high-concentration effluent on the biochemical stew that is the city’s wastewater treatment plant. This new approach will be reflected in a broader proposal to increase wastewater treatment rates. 

For residential customers, the rate bump will be negligible, 1.2 percent. That translates to 58 cents more a month. But for companies renting porta potties and running septic cleaning services, the numbers are more dramatic. Derek Carlson of MarBorg — which runs a thriving porta potty and septic business—calculates the company’s wastewater treatment rates will be increasing by 750 percent. Translated, that comes to $300,000 a year. Carlson had hoped to persuade the city’s water commission to spread that increase out over three years. 

But that idea was opposed by city water czar Joshua Haggmark, who cast the rate hike in less draconian terms. Currently, Haggmark said, MarBorg pays half a cent for every gallon of high-concentrated waste treated. Under the new rate structure, the company will pay a nickel more. Carlson said those numbers don’t reflect the pre-treatment expenses MarBorg must absorb in order to dispose of its wastes at the city’s facility. Other cities, he noted, don’t have such costly pre-treatment requirements. Haggmark noted that most cities — Carpinteria, Goleta, Ventura, and Montecito, to name a few — don’t accept high-concentration waste at all. 

Ultimately, the new rates, which must be approved by the City Council, are scheduled to go into effect July 1. MarBorg currently deposits roughly 5 million gallons a year at the city plant. Large quantities of highly concentrated biosolids, he said, can wreak havoc on the delicate chemistry of digestion taking place there. Also targeted for concern were the new breweries and distilleries springing up in and around the Funk Zone and Haley Street. 


Please note this login is to submit events or press releases. Use this page here to login for your Independent subscription

Not a member? Sign up here.