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Palo Alto eyes major upgrade to sewage plant

Original post made on May 8, 2012

For a city that prides itself on its high-tech vision and green policies, Palo Alto's aged sewage-treatment operation has long been a source of embarrassment. Now the city is looking to make major upgrades to the plant.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, May 7, 2012, 11:44 PM

Comments (7)

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Posted by Marilyn
a resident of Meadow Park
on May 8, 2012 at 8:44 am

Sewage treatment, and upgrading the 40-year-old Palo Alto facility, is a necessity.

Happy to see wet anaerobic digestion is under consideration.

It is a process in which microorganisms break down waste and create energy, which can be either gas or electricity. Palo Alto is already considering building an anaerobic digester to process local food waste and yard trimmings. A 10-acre site next to the sewage treatment plant in the Baylands has been wisely set aside to accommodate the new facility if it found to be feasible.

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Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on May 8, 2012 at 11:41 am

"Former Mayor Peter Drekmeier, who led the campaign to undedicated the parkland, praised the city's effort to upgrade its sewage facilities and encouraged the city to better integrate the two efforts (replacing the wastewater plant and building a new compost facility). Drekmeier advocated "scaling up" the digester to include food waste and said there are "great cost savings in energy-production potential.""

Our former mayor fails to identify what will happen with the compost resulting from mixing human sewage sludge and yard trimmings/food wastes. The compost community doesn't seem to want it. How will we offload the stuff, and at what cost?

Phil Bobel appears to be open to gasification processes. I hope so. Any analysis will need to consider actual costs to the City, including the industrial footprint, which is much larger for anaerobic digestion (AD), compared to gassification. We are at a tipping point, where an enormous financial committment is about to be made for a technology (AD) that is targeted to failure. This is exactly the type of absurdity that needs to be examined, from the start, lest we go even deeper into debt. AD is not even 'green', yet it is being promoted by the 'green' political agenda in Palo Alto. Makes no sense.

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Posted by Hulkamania
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 8, 2012 at 1:24 pm

I remember when I was in Cub Scouts back in the late '50s. The sewage treatment plant had just been rebuilt into a state of the art facility.

The Cub Scouts would go a field trip once a month led by one of the kid's mothers. It was my mom's turn and she took us to the treatment plant. The other parents thought she was crazy and the plant manager couldn't understand why anyone would want to see what their operation did.

It turned out to be one of the best field trips ever.

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Posted by Gethin
a resident of Midtown
on May 8, 2012 at 1:24 pm

Upgrade the facility - very good idea and a good use of our money

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Posted by waste , to positive upgrade
a resident of Midtown
on May 8, 2012 at 2:54 pm

Bravo! It took some time, but now you are going to do it. Yeah!!
It is very important to do it right.

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Posted by Caroline Snyder
a resident of another community
on May 9, 2012 at 7:04 am

Palo Alto should be congratulated for leading the way in 21st century sludge and green waste management. Sludge should be used to generate non-fossil fuel energy, rather than land applied, and green waste should be processed into high quality compost. Major European cities have been doing this for years. Hopefully other US cities will follow Palo Alto's example.
For information about the serious risks of spreading sludge on farms, visit

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Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on May 9, 2012 at 11:48 am

" Sludge should be used to generate non-fossil fuel energy, rather than land applied, and green waste should be processed into high quality compost."

Caroline, the proposal by our local former mayor and his group was, and is to combine human sewage sludge(HSS) with green waste. What cities in Europe do this? If they do, how do they get rid of the stuff? Organic farmers are, increasingly, refusing to accept anything to do with human sewage sludge(too many toxics are contained in such sludge, thus causing a serious perception problem).

If your point is that human sewage sludge should be dealt with independently of green waste, then I think you have an argument. The technology to deal with HSS should be the most efficient process possible, including producing net electricity for the local grid. Do you agree?

Please explain.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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