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Arcata Wastewater

Treatment Plant
and Wildlife

Arcata Wastewater Treatment Plant and

Wildlife Sanctuary is an innovative sewer
management system employed by the
city of Arcata, California.[1]

A series of oxidation ponds, treatment

wetlands and enhancement marshes are
used to filter sewage waste. The
marshes also serve as a wildlife refuge,
and are on the Pacific Flyway. The Arcata
Marsh is a popular destination for
birders. The marsh has been awarded the
Innovations in Government award from
the Ford Foundation/Harvard University
Kennedy School of Government.
Numerous holding pools in the marsh,
called "lakes," are named after donors
and citizens who helped start the marsh
project, including Humboldt State
University professors George Allen and
Robert A. Gearheart who were
instrumental in the creation of the Arcata
Marsh. In 1969 Allen also started an
aquaculture project at the marsh to raise
salmonids in mixtures of sea water and
partially treated wastewater. Despite
being effectively a sewer, the series of
open-air lakes do not smell, and are a
popular destination for birdwatching,[2]
cycling and jogging.

View over southern end of Arcata Marsh.

Sewage treatment
The sewage treatment process takes
place in stages:[3]
1. Primary Treatment (completed in
1949): Sewage is held in sedimentation
tanks where the sludge is removed and
processed for use as fertilizer.
2. Secondary Treatment (completed in
1957): Primary effluent is pumped into
oxidation ponds (here bacteria break
down the waste).
3. Disinfection (completed in 1966):
Secondary effluent is chlorinated to kill
pathogens and dechlorinated to avoid
damage to natural environments.
4. Tertiary Treatment (competed in
1986): Disinfected secondary effluent is
put into artificial marshes where it is
cleansed by reeds, cattails, and bacteria.
5. Disinfection: Tertiary effluent is
chlorinated to kill pathogens from bird
droppings and dechlorinated to avoid
damage to natural environments.[4]

Treatment and
Sewage from the City of Arcata is treated
and released to Humboldt Bay via
complex flow routing through a number
of contiguous ponds, wetlands, and
marshes. Resemblance of treatment
features to natural bay environments
may cause potential ambiguity about
where wastewater ceases to be
considered partially treated sewage and
meets enhancement objectives of the
California Bays and Estuaries Policy.[5]
The wastewater treatment system
includes both treatment wetlands and
enhancement marshes. Treatment
wetlands improve oxidation pond effluent
quality to meet the federal definition of
secondary treatment. Disinfection and
dechlorination is the final step of the
wastewater treatment process.
Disinfected wastewater may be
discharged either to Humboldt Bay or to
enhancement marshes.[6] Enhancement
marshes purify the wastewater and
provide wetland habitat. Enhancement
marsh effluent is disinfected to improve
coliform index changes from birds using
tertiary treatment enhancement marsh
habitat.[7] After leaving the treatment
wetlands the effluent is mixed with water
returning from the enhancement
marshes . Wild bird feces contain
coliform bacteria similar to those found
in human sewage.[8] Recreational access
is limited to areas where effluent has
received secondary treatment and

Conventional pollutants or
wetland detritus
Wetland plants use the energy of sunlight
to produce five to ten times as much
carbohydrate biomass per acre as a
wheat field. Detritus from decomposing
wetlands vegetation forms the base of a
food chain for aquatic organisms, birds
and mammals.[9] Individuals who value
wetland environments may not realize
the effluent characteristics necessary for
release of treated wastewater to
Humboldt Bay. Although there is no
evidence of harm to wildlife, some
regulators suggest potential risk to
wildlife using treatment wetlands
because of an absence of significant
research on wildlife exposure to partially
treated effluent and to potential
accumulation of chemicals being
removed from effluent in wetland
treatment processes.[4] Ongoing research
at Humboldt State University minimizes
potential risk to Humboldt Bay wetlands
and wildlife.[10]

The City of Arcata generates an average

volume of 2.3 million US gallons
(8,700 m3) of sewage per day. Winter
rainfall onto the large surface area of
treatment ponds and marshes increases
the volume of effluent discharged from
the wetland treatment system to as
much as 16.5 million US gallons
(62,000 m3) per day.[11] National
Pollutant Discharge Elimination System
regulations[12] require monthly average
effluent concentrations of biochemical
oxygen demand and of total suspended
solids to be no greater than 30 mg/L,[13]
with an additional requirement for
removal of 85 percent of the quantities
measured in untreated sewage from the
City of Arcata.[14] Unfortunately, when
measuring concentrations leaving
treatment wetlands, neither of these
analytical methods can distinguish
between unremoved conventional
pollutants originally arriving in sewage, or
detritus of decomposing wetland
vegetation; so the limitations may apply
to the sum of both.[15]

The Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary
encompasses 307 acres of land situated
along the Pacific Flyway. Over 327
species of birds have been recorded at
the sanctuary. Numerous plant, mammal,
fish, insect, reptile and amphibian
species inhabit the marsh. These include
river otters, gray foxes, red-legged frog,
tidewater goby, bobcat, striped skunk,
praying mantis and red-sided garter

Arcata Marsh Interpretive

The Friends of the Arcata Marsh (FOAM)
operate the Arcata Marsh Interpretive
Center that contains exhibits about the
operations of the treatment plant, the
importance of the marsh, and about the
plants and animals that live there.
Volunteer docents give tours of the
marsh. Education programs are offered
for school, scout and other groups, as
well as summer camp programs.

1. City of Arcata - Arcata Marsh & Wildlife
Sanctuary Archived 2010-10-17 at the
Wayback Machine.
2. Arcata Wastewater Treatment Plant &
Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary -
Birds Archived 2008-05-13 at the
Wayback Machine.
3. "The Arcata Wastewater Plant Process
Overview" . Humboldt State University.
Retrieved 2011-02-24.
4. Oppelt, E. Timothy Manual: Constructed
Wetlands Treatment of Municipal
Wastewaters (2000) United States
Environmental Protection Agency
5. State Water Resources Control Board
Water Quality Control Policy for the
Enclosed Bays and Esuaries of California
(1995) State of California
6. "Arcata's Wastewater Treatment Plant &
The Arcata Marsh and Wildlife
Sanctuary" . Humboldt State University.
Retrieved 2011-03-01.
7. "USA - California (Arcata) - Constructed
Wetland: A Cost-Effective Alternative for
Wastewater Treatment" . The EcoTipping
Points Project. Retrieved 2011-03-02.
8. "Biopollutants" . National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved
9. "California's Coastal Wetlands" .
California Natural Resources Agency.
Archived from the original on 2011-03-
17. Retrieved 2011-03-02.
10. "Arcata's Wastewater Treatment Plant
& The Arcata Marsh and Wildlife
Sanctuary" . Humboldt State University.
Retrieved 2011-02-27.
11. United States Environmental
Protection Agency Arcata, California -- A
Natural System for Wastewater
Reclamation and Resource Enhancement
12. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA). Washington, DC. "Secondary
Treatment Regulation." Code of Federal
Regulations, 40 CFR Part 133.
13. "Waste Discharge Requirements for
City of Arcata Municipal Wastewater
Treatment Facility" (PDF). State of
California. Retrieved 1 March 2016.
14. "Waste Discharge Requirements for
City of Arcata Municipal Wastewater
Treatment Facility" (PDF). State of
California. Retrieved 2011-02-27.
15. Franson, Mary Ann Standard Methods
for the Examination of Water and
Wastewater 14th Edition (1976) American
Public Health Association ISBN 0-87553-
078-8 pp.89-95&543-544

External links
City of Arcata - Arcata Marsh and
Wildlife Sanctuary
Humboldt State University - Arcata
Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary
Appropedia.org - Arcata Marsh
Retrieved from

Last edited 2 months ago by Amer…

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