The state government may soon force Goleta to clean up its shit.
The California Regional Water Quality Control Board made a tentative vote April 19 to deny a renewing waiver that allows the Goleta Sanitary District to dump treated sewage one mile off Goleta Beach. The board will make an official vote at its May 31 meeting.
The current waiver, which has not changed in 15 years, allows sewage to be treated, chlorinated and discharged into the ocean through underwater pipelines. The Goleta Sanitary District treats roughly six million gallons of raw sewage per day, all of which eventually dumps into the ocean off Goleta Beach.
The majority of the sewage, approximately 4.4 million gallons, receives a secondary treatment in order to disintegrate most of the solid waste. The rest gets only primary level service, which treats the solids, but leaves them intact.
Vicki Clark, an attorney for the Environmental Defense Center, said if the district’s fourth five-year waiver is granted, additional sewage created by Goleta’s growing population would be treated only at the primary level, leaving a significant amount of solid waste in the ocean.
“The problem we saw is what happens in the next five years will not be the same as what happened in the past,” Clark said. “Anything that comes in now will only get primary treatment, which is our main concern.”
Goleta Sanitary District employee Camille Azure said he does not expect Goleta’s sewage production to create any future problems.
“We’re not seeing any growth in population or an increase in flow,” Azure said. “Our current capacity will handle community growth in the foreseeable future.”
The EDC has expressed concern about the potential for sewage to rise to the surface and wash up onshore, a problem which the Huntington Beach Sanitary District is currently facing.
Under normal conditions, warm ocean water stays near the surface while colder, denser water sinks to the floor. Because the sewage is discharged near the ocean floor in the cold, it tends to stay underwater. But during the winter temperature changes may cause the sewage to rise to the surface where it can be carried by wind and currents to Goleta Beach or Campus Point, Clark said.
The Goleta Sanitary District said it has no plans for a waste treatment plant expansion and that if the wavier is denied, operations modifications could cost $25 million in taxpayer money. The district is operating “just fine” under the current waiver, Azure said.
“We are in compliance with federal requirements and we have a massive database that points to the fact that we haven’t been causing any problems for public health or the environment,” he said.