Morro Bay-Cayucos sewer plant may duck an upgrade
State regulators have pressed for major overhaul
MORRO BAY - Morro Bay and Cayucos officials may have found a way to avoid a showdown with state regulators over upgrading their jointly-owned sewer plant.
Bruce Keogh, the treatment plant manager, said they will look into building an "equalization basin" -- essentially a large storage tank -- to regulate the flow into the plant and allow for better treatment of sewage before it is dumped into the ocean north of Morro Rock.
Currently, the plant is subject to large increases in the flow at certain times of the day, Keogh explained. That forces the discharge of a mix of primary- and secondary-treated sewage.
The plant has one of four waivers statewide allowing that.
An equalization basin would store the effluent and send it to the plant in an even flow throughout the day, allowing for better sewage treatment.
The state Regional Water Quality Control Board has asked the city and the Cayucos Sanitary District to come up with an upgrade plan and move toward giving up the waiver.
Morro Bay and the Cayucos district have applied for a new sewage discharge permit, seeking to continue the waiver.
A draft permit is expected this fall, and the case could go to the water board next February.
The plant's discharge permit is due to expire in March. But if an upgrade plan is filed, the water board will likely renew the five-year permit.
Matt Thompson, a resource control officer with the water board, said members are "open to all proposals to improve effluent quality and eliminate the waiver."
They are familiar with equalization basins, he added, but need to see details before making any judgments on whether it would work in Morro Bay.
"The aim is to get to full secondary treatment by having more control of the flow rate through the plant," Keogh said.
"My hope is maybe it's a more cost-effective solution," he added. "The goal is to make it as cost effective as possible."
Sewer plant upgrade: Why you should care
Boosting the plant to full secondary treatment could cost another $7 a month for Morro Bay and Cayucos homes, according to 1999 study by the city.
Primary treatment removes solids from sewage. Secondary uses microbes to eat impurities. The Morro Bay/Cayucos plant has a waiver that lets some partial secondary treated sewage to be discharged through an outfall pipe in the ocean north of Morro Rock.
© 2003 San Luis Obispo Tribune and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.
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