Laguna Beach will profit from improvements at the Coastal Treatment Plant located next to the Aliso Creek Golf Course (“Expensive Decision Looms Over Treatment Plant,” Feb. 22). Efficient conversion of sewage to methane gas can power Laguna into a future of energy sustainability and even new sources of revenues. Sewage treatment plants in California from Fountain Valley, Ontario, San Diego and Tulare are saving millions each year by operating off of methane derived “natural gas” from sewage sludge.
As the Laguna Beach City Council debates spending millions of dollars on a four-mile “band aid” pipeline along the eroding Aliso Creek to pump our biosolids inland for processing, better alternatives point to more reliable cogeneration systems. Engineers from UC Irvine’s National Fuel Cell Research Center met last Friday with a Laguna Beach community task force to outline fuel cell technology and opportunities to profit from poop. A fuel cell supplied by sewage methane biogas can power the Coastal Treatment Plant and it’s many operations.
Excess methane from this and other regional sewage plants can be injected into the existing natural gas pipeline networks in our community for a credit to supply distant fuel cells at Mission Hospital, for instance, saving money and replacing imported natural gas. Methane wheeling programs supply natural gas from San Diego’s Point Loma Treatment Plant to provide power to fuel cells 10 miles away at UC San Diego. Power purchase agreements, a type of investment in biogas futures, lock down energy costs at today’s rate as a hedge against increasing electrical expenses. Low-interest state loan programs offer up to $50 million to improve sewage treatment plants.
Basic improvements to Laguna’s sewage management will increase our community’s resilience in case of power outages or regional disasters by securing a reliable source of electrical power. During an emergency, power derived at the Coastal Treatment Plant can also produce hi-purity “new water” to supply residents and visitors alike.
Laguna Beach prides itself on innovation and wise wastewater and energy management. Yet we remain the only community without a modern sewage treatment plant capable of cogeneration. Indeed, all of SOCWA’s other treatment plants produce energy through methane conversion, but Laguna’s Coastal Treatment Plant has been left behind.
Fear of a leak is driving a hasty decision. Alternatives to spending $4 million for a pipe that is admittedly a short term fix are too quickly dismissed. Fear rarely produces an intelligent plan. Since we all contribute to sewage each day, now is the time to contact your favorite Council representative and support upgrades and improvements to Laguna’s aging wastewater system.
Michael Beanan, South Laguna