City News

Wastewater Treatment Plant Project Update


One of the City’s most important capital projects over the past six months has been the cleaning and upgrading of a digester at the Wastewater Treatment Plant in the Westlake neighborhood. The digester is a critical part of the Treatment Plant that uses biological methods to clean wastewater. It had been operating at a significantly reduced capacity due to the gradual accumulation of sludge at the bottom of the tank over a period of two decades. This major project is rehabilitating the digester and, we are happy to report, is nearing the final stage of completion.

Due to the nature of the work, which involved cleaning the digester, we are fully aware that odor in surrounding areas has been at times very strong. Afterall, our staff works at the Treatment Plant and nearby facilities and they experience it up close and personal, too. The City apologizes for this inconvenience. We realize that no one wants to breathe that type of “fragrant” air. Staff and contractors are working quickly to finish all remaining tasks and we kindly request your patience through these final weeks of the project. Remember, the last time this type of project was undertaken was twenty years ago!

With the variety of upgrades and tech installations, you will enjoy odor stabilization and improvement in another month to month and a half. Right now, a new mix of microorganisms, including multiple types of bacteria, are repopulating the digester – we depend on these microscopic life forms to treat waste! But like all living things, they will need time to adjust to their new home after being generously donated to us by the City of Burlingame’s treatment facility. Wastewater treatment isn’t exactly a glamorous business, but it’s fundamental to modern life in our city. Most of the time, you need not ever think about what happens to the wastewater you flush down your toilets, sinks and showers, because luckily our City’s Department of Water & Wastewater Resources 73 staff members, and billions of microorganisms, take care of it all after it reaches the drain.

Again, our sincerest apologies for the inconvenience this rehabilitation project has caused to you, our residents. We care deeply about your daily experience in your neighborhoods and homes. To share a behind-the-scenes look at how wastewater is treated, we will be offering tours of the treatment facility once the digester project is complete. Please do sign up! The complexity of the process is shockingly modern. All those little microorganisms clean the water so well that it eventually is approved to discharge into the Pacific Ocean! Much of it is purified as recycled water for use in landscapes, like our medians, fields, or at the Olympic Club golf course, our largest recycled water customer. We are doing our part to conserve water and adhere to the highest standards in water treatment, which are verified multiple times a day through a system of sophisticated testing in our lab. Learn about it all on a tour!

Email or call (650) 991-8200 to get on the tour list. We’ll be in touch with dates as soon as the digester project is complete.

If you have questions or concerns in the meantime, you are welcome to call our Department directly at (650) 991-8200.

Best wishes for a happy and healthy 2020!


 ^ Newly installed valves and appurtenances including new site ports, hatches, valves, flame arrestors and a new gas and water separation unit - all critical to the safety, odor control and overall function of the Digester. 


^ Installing a new drain valve in the Digester


^ "Seeding" new microorganisms into the freshly cleaned and upgraded Digester