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

By Dan Bacher

How is that “iconic network of jewels of the sea” created under the “most open, transparent and inclusive process” in California history, according to Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative proponents, working out?

Not very well, it appears, if you consider a recent untreated wastewater spill that is likely to foul these so-called “marine protected areas” off the Monterey County coast, just like the Refugio Oil Spill fouled Santa Barbara County beaches and “marine protected areas” on May 20, 2015.

Approximately 4.4 million gallons of untreated wastewater have been discharged into the blue waters of Monterey Bay through an ocean outfall discharge pipe 2.5 miles off shore, the result of an “equipment control failure” at the Monterey One Water Regional Treatment Plant in Marina, California, on January 19 and 20. 

As of January 22, 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,” according toPaul Sciuto, General Manager for Monterey One Water, in a press release.

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 National Marine 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


The Environment 1988651747245772850

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