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South Coast Wastewater Treatment Plant Gets $32 Million Dollar Modernization

The El Estero Water Resource Center in Santa Barbara recycles about six million gallons of wastewater a day. A $32 million dollar project has improved its ability to reclaim wastewater.

It’s something we take for granted: flush the toilet, and the stuff goes somewhere, right? All you care about is that it’s gone.

In Santa Barbara, the city is trying to go the extra mile in making its wastewater useful. Work is wrapping up in a more-than-two year, $32 million dollar project to put the city’s treatment facility cutting edge.

Joshua Haggmark is the City of Santa Barbara’s Water Resources Manager. Haggmark says by modifying the existing system, they’ve created a situation where natural bacteria can do a better job of purifying the wastewater. The facility handles about six million gallons of wastewater a day.

There are a number of other improvements to the system, which uses gas created during the processing to power much of the facility, and turns waste into usable compost for farms and parks. In light of all the improvements, it's been renamed the El Estero Water Resource Center, to reflect its role in not just purifying, but recycling wastewater.  Most of the money for the $32 million dollar project came in the form of a low interest loan from the federal government.

Haggmark says the improvements are important because they enhance the city’s water portfolio, which also includes Gibraltar Reservoir, Lake Cachuma, state water, wells, and a desalination plant which turns ocean water into drinking water.

The processed water which flows from this facility through a pipe into the ocean a mile and a half offshore is now around drinking water quality. The upgraded El Estero facility is taking the recycling concept to a new level well past what’s legally required.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral. 
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