Pacific Grove Looks At Recycling Storm Water

Dec 12, 2013

Pacific Grove Sewage Treatment Plant
Credit Doug McKnight
Pacific Grove Sewage Treatment Plant and Point Pinos Lighthouse
Credit Doug McKnight

Pacific Grove is trying to turn a potential problem into an opportunity. The ocean water that sits off its shore is one of 34 special environmental areas along the California coast that restricts the discharge of storm water. The city believes it has come up with a way to not only solve the problem of storm water runoff,  but save some money at the same time.

Sarah Hardgrave stands between two gigantic storage tanks near the Point Pinos Lighthouse in Pacific Grove. The tanks together hold up to 640 thousand gallons and are part of the city’s sewage treatment plant that was decommissioned in the 80’s. As the city’s Environmental Programs Manager, Hardgrave has worked on ways to deal with the city’s storm water runoff and thinks the treatment plant and the tanks may be part of a solution

Hardgrave says, “They’re in good shape and so we have this opportunity to use an existing treatment plant site for a new treatment of water for recycling and reuse on the city’s golf course and cemetery.”

The city is looking at recycling storm water runoff because last year, the State Water Resources Board redefined storm water runoff as waste water for parts of the coastline designated as Areas of Special Biological Significance or ASBS. The city immediately applied for and received an exception that buys it some time.

Hardgrave says, “And the exception says storm water is waste and you can only discharge it if it is not having an effect on the natural water quality of the ocean in the near shore within the ASBS.”

Tests are now being conducted to see if storm water really does pollute the ocean. But even if the tests find the water does not pollute, the city still faces skyrocketing costs of watering its golf course and cemetery.

Hardgrave says, “Currently the Pacific Grove Municipal Golf Course is one of two golf courses in the entire Monterey Peninsula area that still uses potable water for irrigation.”

Using potable, or drinking water, costs the city over 350 thousand dollars a year just to water the golf course. And water rates are expected to increase dramatically.

So that’s where this old sewage treatment plant enters the picture.  Water used to irrigate the golf course and cemetery would have to be treated. The city is using a grant to study ways to get the storm water to the old plant. It could not only save that money, It could also keep storm water out of the bay and add to the drinking water available to people who live on the Monterey Peninsula.

Jeff Krebs is Monterey’s Senior Engineer and working with Pacific Grove on the project. He says the project makes sense economically because of the unique way the storm system is laid out.

Krebs says, “We are working in this area of Pacific Grove, everything goes to gravity, we are not doing pumps. They’ve got a large cemetery. They’ve got the golf course and everything is in proximity where the infrastructure is.”

Krebs says the current feasibility study is scheduled to be completed in April of next year. If the study shows recycling is possible, the city will seek 20 million dollars in grant money to actually build the additional necessary infrastructure to route the storm water to the treatment plant. Any actual construction would probably done in stages would take at least five years to complete