Wastewater infrastructure evaluated includes treatment plants, wet weather facilities, effluent pump stations, overflow structures, dechlorination and discharge facilities, and ancillary facilities such as sludge drying beds and out of service oxidation ponds.
Like other utilities, wastewater systems are large and complex, require significant financial investment, and are highly regulated. These aspects present a number of governance challenges that must be overcome in order to respond to sea level rise and storm events. Wastewater facilities also share a number of physical characteristics with other utility infrastructure that contribute to vulnerability: reliance on uninterrupted power; water and salt sensitive mechanical and electrical components; and the potential for conveyance and discharge functions to be reduced by rising Bay water levels. Unlike other utilities, wastewater systems have no existing redundancy for their treatment functions and a very limited ability to create redundancies, and no ability to connect across systems.
Wastewater systems may be able to cope with minor, infrequent flooding using sandbags, on-site pumping, and portable power supplies. However, these measures will not adequately address frequent or long duration flooding, and are unlikely to successfully maintain the primary function of certain facilities such as wet weather facilities. With little-to-no duplication of function, damage or disruption to wastewater systems will have significant consequences on public and environmental health, and could harm the local economy if employers that rely on wastewater services cannot remain open or development opportunities are reduced due to a lack of capacity to handle increased wastewater flows.
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- Lindy Lowe