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Home > Feature Articles > Recycling Business Strategies for Natural Resource Conservation and Reuse

Reclaimed Water to Offset Your Hand Lotion's Impact on Marine Species?

Ocean wastewater discharge has become even more questionable as wastewater contains a growing number of contaminants of emerging concern, and fresh water becomes more scarce.

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Coastal communities throughout California flush away more than a billion gallons of fresh water every day by discharging wastewater into the Pacific Ocean, according to a report released yesterday by Heal the Ocean.

The solution to pollution is no longer dilution. The ocean is on overload and it needs to stop.

Essentially a detailed survey of wastewater dumped into ocean waters along the entire coast of California, the report highlights concerns about untreated chemical contaminants and the need to move toward reclaimed wastewater.

Focus on Reclaiming Water

By adapting treatment plants to focus on reclaiming water, Heal the Ocean officials believe the state could solve two problems: stop widespread pollution of the ocean and address the lack of potable water needed to sustain the state’s future.

The California Ocean Wastewater Discharge Report and Inventory examined the state’s 43 wastewater treatment facilities and determined that only 312 million gallons are reclaimed daily for beneficial use.

Drinking Water Used for Waste Disposal?

The study called the use of potable water for waste disposal, and its subsequent discharge into the ocean, an outdated practice that is clearly a poor use of water and marine resources.

Ocean Pollution from California Households

The amount of water used to treat and dump effluent into the ocean daily is roughly the same amount of water used every year by 2 million California households.

But before coastal wastewater facilities can start reclaiming water, many will need to make major improvements to tackle a critical issue: chemical pollution.

“Already known to carry a health risk, ocean wastewater discharge has become even more questionable as wastewater contains a growing number of contaminants of emerging concern,” according to the report.

The so-called CECs include ingredients found in everyday products such as antibacterial soaps, shampoos and pharmaceuticals, as well as other chemicals such as pesticides. Hauser said she had her own hand lotion analyzed during the study and the list of pollutants was disturbing.

“We’re all doing it unaware — unaware of the chemicals that we’re brushing our teeth with, that we’re rubbing into our skin and scalp,” she said. “Read the labels. If you can’t pronounce it, should it be going straight out into the ocean?”

Water Resources Recommendations & Solutions

Among its recommendations, the report highlighted the need for funding to improve and upgrade existing wastewater plants to deal with CECs, in addition to shifting the focus to reclaimed water.

Using recycled water as a supply for toilet flushing and irrigation, for example, are two ways to significantly reduce the waste of potable water.

Are YOU Aware? Can you pass it along?

The problem, Hauser said, is the lack of public awareness and appreciation for wastewater treatment. A major education campaign is needed to raise awareness about the benefits of high-quality recycled water and its potential to be cleaner than many drinking water supplies.

Heal the Ocean officials are distributing the report to water agencies and state officials throughout California and the United States. Hauser said the next step involves putting together a campaign to find funding for treatment upgrades and the eventual shift toward reclaimed water.

The report, which took nearly half a decade to complete, includes detailed data about every wastewater treatment plant and sewage outfalls, including a Google map that offers close-up views and information about each site. It is available at

Heal the Ocean has five goals

  • Zero pathogens in sewage discharges to the ocean
  • Reduced septic system use.
  • Reduced contamination from non-point sources, including those found in groundwater and stormwater.
  • Elimination of ocean dumping, including improper dredging and filling.
  • Elimination of coastal landfill pollution.

SOURCE: The Daily Sound

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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