8/12/2021 The Los Angeles Times features a front-page story about the much-anticipated Operation Next project and the Water Treatment and Recycling Plant. However, this story was not positive. The title “Sewage Spill’s Domino Effects” hints at the complexity and interconnected nature of fixing environmental damage in Southern California.
The water treatment plant provides a source of fresh recycled water, but last month a large blockage of trash and solids filled the plant’s screens, requiring the city to both shut off the water recycling, and to dump sewage into the ocean. Even more concerning, the plant was overwhelmed while operating at one-third capacity. This means the untreated sewage contained more than 5 times as much garbage and solids as it has in the past. Also, the damage at the plant caused an increase in solids, requiring them to mix millions of gallons of virgin water into their recycled water to meet regulations for use.
The damage and lack of recycled water capacity is forcing Los Angeles to replace the missing water contributions with fresh drinking water from their other sources like the Owens Valley or Metropolitan Water District. This setback shows that Operation Next faces many challenges, but recycled water serves a necessary role in maintaining aquifers in the area. We continue to advocate for sources that will reduce the need to export water from Long Valley and the Eastern Sierra.