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Surfrider, wastewater and reuse

February 19 2008 | Jim's Blog,
by Jim

The question was asked (via a posted comment on this blog) a few days ago

"...what is Surfrider doing regarding wastewater treatment improvements and reuse projects?"


Our efforts to support increased levels of wastewater treatment and recycling have mostly been at the local level where we typically can be most effective.

These have included:
  • A successful grassroots campaign to end Orange County Sanitation District's 301h waiver and require full secondary treatment of 240 MGD of sewage, together with endorsing Orange County Water District's Groundwater Replenishment System that is now in operation, turning about 70 MGD of of secondary treated sewage into potable-quality water that is pumped to spreading basins to recharge groundwater aquifers. More.
  • Similar successful campaigns to end 301h waivers in Goleta, CA and Morro Bay, CA
  • 301h campaigns in progress in San Diego, CA and Honolulu. It should be noted that in both these locations, neglected sewer infrastructure leading to major sewer spills has been arguably a bigger environmental threat that incomplete sewage treatment, so our activists have focused on the former before tackling the latter. Water shortage issues are beginning to provide new impetus to water reclamation and recycling efforts and this may be a stronger driver than ocean pollution to ultimately "closing the loop" and simultaneously addressing water supply and water pollution problems.
  • In Kennebunkport, Maine the town currently permits direct discharge of sewage during winter months, only treating the sewage in the summer months. Our Northern New England Chapter has brought the issue to the attention of Kennebunkport and the Maine DEP. Year-round treatment was preliminarily approved by a majority vote of the Kennebunkport Board of Selectmen.
  • In Delaware, there have been proposals to pump 3.4 million gallons per day of treated sewage from Rehoboth Beach through a 6,000-foot outfall pipe into the Atlantic Ocean to eliminate discharges and associated water quality problems in the Inland Bays. Members of our Delaware Chapter have opposed this plan, concerned that the ocean water quality would suffer. Instead, the chapter supports land application of the treated wastewater and increased use of reclaimed water for irrigation as a way of lessening the sewer discharge to the ocean and also to conserve fresh water supplies.
  • In North Carolina our Cape Fear Chapter has been putting pressure on the City of Wilmington to build a replacement main sewer line to stop the recurrence of major sewer spills in the area.
  • In Florida, our Palm Beach County Chapter assisted/partnered with another local group and the county to eliminate dumping from a sewage outfall in order to protect endangered corals and the reef ecosystem. This is the first ocean outfall ever closed in Florida.
Our 2007 State of the Beach Report focused on these types of issues and contains an essay on water quality.

Our Ocean Friendly Gardens Campaign addresses both the water shortage and water runoff issues by encouraging the use of more climate-adapted landscaping.

But to answer the original question, we generally rely on larger environmental organizations with staff in Washington DC like NRDC and Ocean Conservancy to follow proposed legislation designed to fund/promote increased levels of wastewater treatment and recycling and then "sign on" as a supporter of the legislation, as appropriate.
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