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01 • 01 • 2005

Morro Bay/Cayucos Wastewater Treatment Plant Siting

Goal: to secure a wastewater treatment project (or projects) that will serve both communities that meets Clean Water Act standards (ending the 301(h) waiver), is properly located outside of coastal hazard areas, maximizes wastewater reclamation, and ideally eliminates the need for an ocean outfall altogether.

The Morro Bay/Cayucos Wastewater Treatment Plant currently operates under a 301(h) waiver from the Clean Water Act, which allows the plant to discharge partially treated sewage to the ocean. With push from the San Luis Obispo Chapter and other concerned organizations and individuals, the Morro Bay City Council and Cayucos Sanitary District Board of Directors voted unanimously in 2007 to upgrade the plant to tertiary treatment with the intent to beneficially reuse the treated wastewater.

Unfortunately, the campaign took some steps backwards when the parties tried to get permits for a new plant at a site right on the coast where it would have been subject to coastal hazards and located in the 100-year flood zone. Additionally, the plans did not include upgrade to Title 22 tertiary standards or infrastructure to allow meaningful reuse of the treated water.

The SLO Chapter and others appealed the local approval of the project to the California Coastal Commission; the Commission denied the project in January 2013 and sent a clear message to the project proponents that the project would need to be located outside of the coastal zone subject to hazards and flooding.

The cities of Morro Bay and Cayucos are now both making progress on projects located outside of the coastal zone so that they will have wastewater treatment plants that comply with Clean Water Act standards. Most recently, in July 2019, the California Coastal Commission granted a coastal development permit to the City of Morro Bay for its appropriately-sited Water Reclamation Facility project, which will upgrade the treatment plant and produce recycled water.

Clean Water