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Every day, 365 days a year, the San Jos-Santa Clara Regional Wastewater Facility cleans Silicon
Valleys wastewater to very high national standards, protecting public health and the environment, and
supporting the economy. Using a process that simulates the way nature cleans water, the Facility treats
an average of 110 million gallons of wastewater per day (mgd), with a capacity of up to 167 mgd.

The largest tertiary treatment plant in the western United States, the Facility serves 1.4 million residents
and over 17,000 businesses in an eight-city area. Highly trained Facility staff ensure that all treated
wastewater meets strict regulations.

A leader in wastewater innovation, the Facility is integrating revolutionary new treatment technologies into
its processes and rebuilding aging infrastructure through its Capital Improvement Program. This
modernization will not only strengthen the Facilitys ability to provide vital services, but will also result in
greater sustainability.

Treatment Process
Treatment Process
After wastewater enters the San Jos-Santa Clara Regional Wastewater Facility (Facility), it undergoes a
three-step treatment process to remove solids, pollutants, and pathogenic bacteria. Machinery and gravity
separate solids from the wastewater. Added bacteria clean the water pollutants before the flow enters the
advanced filter process. The treatment process produces water that is 99% purified and is subsequently
discharged into the Bay.

Did you know? The Facility's largest annual peak flows arrive on Super Bowl Sunday!

Headworks (Pretreatment)
Original structure
The original headworks structure has operated continuously for over 50 years. Large bar screens remove
rags, sticks, rocks, and other debris that could otherwise clog machinery. The debris are then transported
to the landfill.

The original structure system has never been taken out of service for maintenance. If this system failed, it
could result in a raw sewage spill onto Facility grounds. Berms and other protections surround the system
to prevent sewage from entering the Bay.

New structure
The new headworks structure is in its final testing phase. The system was built to avoid accidental
sewage spills due to mechanical malfunction, earthquakes or other unexpected events.

Primary Treatment
This 24-hour physical process removes about 50 percent of wastewater contaminants. In large tanks, the
flow is slowed to allow gravity to separate large particles. This process mimics the natural processes of
creeks and rivers, where sediments settle to the bottom.

Fiberglass bars, or flights, move across the tank surface to skim off fats, oils, and grease. Flights
gradually rotate from the top to the bottom and the settled solid particles are moved into the digesters.

The pollutants and solid material removed during the three treatment steps are separated from the liquid
flows in digester tanks.

It takes 25 to 30 days for anaerobic bacteria to stabilize unwanted material and reduce the pathogens and
other disease-causing organisms in the solids. Anaerobic bacteria operate best without oxygen and at
about 98 degrees.

Digesters produce methane gas, which meets 35% of the Facility's energy needs.

Secondary & Tertiary Treatment

Secondary Treatment
Aeration is a biological process that produces 95% clean water by pumping air into the flow. The oxygen-
rich (aerobic) environment nurtures the growth of naturally-occurring aerobic bacteria.

After aeration, the flow is piped into clarifiers where the aerobic bacteria settle to the bottom. Treated
water remains in the clarifiers for one to three hours. Mechanical arms move slowly around the tank to
collect scum and bacteria for the digesters. Some bacteria are then sent back to the aeration tanks to
repeat the process.

Tertiary Treatment
Tertiary treatment is the third and final process. During tertiary treatment, wastewater flows through
several filter beds composed of gravel, sand and anthracite coal. This step is also known as "advanced"
treatment because few communities undertake it. The three treatment plants located in South San
Francisco Bay require tertiary treatment because their water discharges into shallow waters with little tidal

The "advanced" treatment is needed to ensure that our water meets state and federal water quality
regulations. Water is 99% pure after tertiary treatment. Following filtration, liquid hypochlorite solution is
used to purify the water further. Before being discharged into the Bay, a second chemical is added to
neutralize the chlorine, which could otherwise harm aquatic life.

Outfall Channel
After tertiary treatment, about 80% of the treated water is piped to the outfall channel. From here, it flows
to Artesian Slough, through Coyote Creek, and eventually into the Bay. Many birds and fish are found at
the outfall channel, including stripers, black bass, and salmon.

The remaining 20% of the treated water is sent to South Bay Water Recycling and used to irrigate food
crops, parks, schools, golf courses, street medians, and business park landscaping.