Aug 28, 2023 - Development

Treasure Island begins construction on new wastewater treatment facility

Aerial view of Treasure Island's landscape, including roads and buildings

Treasure Island as seen from a drone on May 13, 2021. Photo: Jane Tyska/Digital First Media/East Bay Times via Getty Images

A new water resource recovery facility has broken ground on Treasure Island as part of San Francisco's redevelopment plan for the region.

Why it matters: The man-made island, which sits between San Francisco and Oakland, is expected to gain 20,000 residents by 2032 — eight times its current population. Officials say the plant will play a key role in ensuring a sustainable water recycling process.

Details: The goal is to produce minimal wastewater discharge while using the disinfected recycled water for landscaping, irrigation, plumbing and more, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) senior project manager Jignesh Desai told Axios.

  • "By the time you add up all the reuse, there'll be very little water going out to the receiving water in the Bay," Desai said.
  • The new plant will have an annual average wastewater treatment capacity of 1.3 million gallons per day. It will also facilitate a nutrient-removal process to ensure discharged water does not contain materials that can contribute to algae growth in the Bay.
  • Excavation of the site kicked off Friday, SFPUC spokesperson Joseph Sweiss confirmed in an email. Completion of the project, which will include a wetlands habitat, is slated for 2026.

Between the lines: Studies have shown that people who live close to municipal wastewater treatment plants are more likely to report symptoms of illness and disease, including headaches and gastrointestinal problems, than those who do not.

  • Desai said the facility will be held to the city's policies for controlling emissions, containing odors and minimizing noise. "Our commitment ... is no odors beyond the fence line," he added.

The big picture: Treasure Island is a former U.S. naval station that was first developed for the World's Fair in 1939.

  • When San Francisco took control in 1997, it began moving unhoused and low-income people from the city onto the island.
  • Over half of Treasure Island's population today live below the poverty line, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Nearly 50% are Black or Latino.
  • Built on landfill, the island has struggled to combat climate change threats, including flooding and rising sea levels, as its ground sank over the years. Navy-era radioactive contamination has also led to health issues among residents.
  • A smaller treatment facility with dated infrastructure currently serves the nearly 2,500 people who live there, per Desai.

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