Treatment Plant Discharges 4.4 Million Gallons of Untreated Wastewater Into Monterey Bay

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As a result of an “equipment control failure” at the Monterey One Water Regional Treatment Plant in Marina in Monterey County on January 19 and 20, 2018, approximately 4.4 million gallons of untreated wastewater have been “inadvertently” discharged into the Monterey Bay through the ocean outfall discharge pipe 2.5 miles off shore, according to a press release by Monterey One Water.

As of January 20, Carmel Beach at Ocean Avenue, Monterey Municipal Beach, Lover’s Point, the Beach at Monterey State Beach, San Carlos Beach, the beach at Sunset Drive at Asilomar, the beach at Spanish Bay and Stillwater Cove are closed.

These beaches will remain closed until samples indicate that the water is again safe for contact according to state guidelines.  “All other beaches are open without restriction,” according to the Monterey County Health Department.

The department warns that contact with contaminated water may cause gastroenteritis and other water board illnesses.

This event occurred late Friday evening, January 19, and into the early morning hours of Saturday January 20.

“Because of this release, Monterey County Health Department immediately issued beach closures from Moss Landing to Stillwater Cove. The Health Department is advising the public not to have any ocean contact at this time,” Paul Sciuto, General Manager for Monterey One Water, stated.

Sciuto said five water samples from local beaches and eleven samples from the receiving surface water (RSW) surrounding the outfall pipe were obtained on Saturday. Sampling from the same local beach locations plus two more sites also occurred on Sunday.

“All eleven of the open ocean results from the Saturday sampling event were below the Ocean Plan limits for Total Coliform, E. coli and Enterococcus. For the five local beach samples taken on Saturday, only one sample (Monterey Wharf #2) had an elevated Enterococcus measurement of 108 MPN/100mL. The single sample limit for Enterococcus is 104 MPN/100mL,” Sciuto said.

“Sampling results for the seven local beach locations will be made available on Monday afternoon. The Agency is continuing to investigate the cause of this event and will post new information including additional sampling results on the Agency’s website as soon as it becomes available,” he concluded.

Monterey Bay is unique in having one of the diverse marine ecosystems on the planet, since cold water species like Chinook salmon, rockfish and lingcod thrive in its waters, as well as warmer water species such as white seabass, bonito and barracuda, particularly during El Nino events. It also features one of the largest arrays of surfperch in its waters, including barred, silver, walleye, pile, rubberlipped, black, rainbow, striped and walleye perch.

“I find it interesting that you have to dig a little in all the reports that the spill was in Marina, not Monterey actually,” Frank Emerson, local angler and conservationist, commented. “It seems a little downplayed to me that it is severe pollution of the Monterey Bay Sanctuary and that ‘Protected’ status under the MLPA designation does not really protect against actual threats to the habitat. It only regulates unfairly against the fishing public.”

I will update this article as more information becomes available.

Information on beach closures can be found at or call 1- 800-347-6363.