Neighbors still awaiting new sewage plant 

click to enlarge The Southeast Wastewater Treatment Plant uses inefficient, 1940s-era technology. - MIKE KOOZMIN/THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Mike Koozmin/The S.F. Examiner
  • The Southeast Wastewater Treatment Plant uses inefficient, 1940s-era technology.

For decades, residents of the Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood have lived amid the stench of sewage, gas and other contaminants. But that could change if a project to replace old equipment in the Southeast Wastewater Treatment Plant is approved by the Board of Supervisors.

The relief cannot come soon enough for neighbors.

Resident Espanola Jackson told the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission this week that she has been waiting a long time for the project to move forward.

“Let’s get things going now,” Jackson said. “I’ve been waiting 10 long years for this. I want you to pass this today so when I leave here I can let them know to get to work now.”

The plant was built in the 1950s, but used digester technology from the 1940s, according to documents from the SFPUC.

The new project would bring in modern equipment that meets current standards and can withstand a major earthquake. On Tuesday, a contract was approved with a design firm for $80 million for planning and design as part of the overall $1 billion digester replacement project.

“It’s old and not seismically sound,” Karen Kubick of the SFPUC said. “This is really the cornerstone of the program, and it’s needed up front.”

If the project is approved, the plant that processes 80 percent of The City’s wastewater will have new digesters with fixed roofs to prevent odors and gas from escaping, and filters would be moved farther away from residences.

The digesters that will be replaced take waste, including the human variety and dirt from streets, and turn it into bio-soil. The process takes roughly 15 days. Once completed, The City uses the material as a form of fertilizer locally and can transport some to the Central Valley.

“It’s an exciting opportunity,” Kubick said. “We can have local reuse in parks. But now we’re conducting market assessments to look at additional uses.”

The project, already five years in the making, would take another decade to be completed. Because sewage plants operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the current system cannot be taken out of use until a replacement is built.

“Our new process, though, will reduce the amount of material we have to load off,” Kubick said. “And odor control has come a long way.”

If the Board of Supervisors approves the project contract, planning and design work can begin in July. The project is part of a larger $6.9 billion undertaking by the SFPUC.


Clarification: This story was updated May 30 to reflect that the $80 million contract approved Tuesday is for planning and design of the $1 billion digester replacement project.

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