The Elk River Wastewater Treatment Plant needs to be retrofitted. This came out of a Eureka city report that sparked a change in permit classification. The report found that not all of the effluent the plant releases leaves the bay.
When the plant was originally built in the 1980s, it was classified as one that releases the treated wastewater into the open ocean. The plant now has to meet inland surface water plant requirements.
Michael Hansen, deputy director of public works, said the plant wasn’t really designed to meet the new permitting limits.
“We’re only allowed to release twice a day when the tide is outgoing. We release into the middle of the shipping channel, out there in the bay,” said Hansen.

The treatment plant receives about 3,500,000 gallons of flow per day. This is the waste from all of Eureka and the surrounding areas. During storm events, inflow and infiltration can push it up to the plant’s capacity of 32 million gallons. Stormwater influx is caused by leaky pipes throughout the district, something the city has been trying to fix.
Charles Reed, supervisor of point source control and groundwater protection division at the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, said the Eureka plant could either find a way to release the effluent to the ocean or add some kind of wetland enhancement like Arcata did. He noted Eureka has less available space for wetland enhancement than Arcata does.
Reed said the city has until 2042 to meet the classification.
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