Hyperion sewage treatment plant

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The Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant from the air.
Detail of one of the plant buildings designed by Anthony J Lumsden, FAIA.

The Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant is a sewage treatment plant in southwest Los Angeles, California, next to Dockweiler State Beach on Santa Monica Bay. The plant is the largest sewage treatment facility in the Los Angeles Metropolitan Area and one of the largest plants in the world. Hyperion is operated by the City of Los Angeles, Department of Public Works, and the Bureau of Sanitation. Hyperion is the largest sewage plant by volume west of the Mississippi River.[1]

LA City Sanitation operates the largest wastewater collection system in the US, serving a population of four million within a 600 square mile service area. LA's more than 6,700 miles of public sewers convey 400 million gallons per day of flow from customers to LASAN's four plants.


Until 1925, raw sewage from the city of Los Angeles was discharged untreated directly into Santa Monica Bay in the region of today's Hyperion Treatment Plant.[2]

With the population increase, the amount of sewage became a major problem to the beaches, so in 1925 the city of Los Angeles built a simple screening plant in the 200 acres (0.81 km2) the city had acquired in 1892.[2]

Even with the screening plant, the quality of the water in Santa Monica Bay was unacceptable, and in 1950 the city of Los Angeles opened the Hyperion Treatment Plant with full secondary treatment processes. In addition, the new plant included capture of biogas from anaerobic digesters to produce heat dried fertilizer.[2]

In order to keep up with the increase of influent wastewater produced by the ever-growing city of Los Angeles, by 1957 the plant engineers had cut back treatment levels and increased the discharge of a blend of primary and secondary effluent through a five-mile (8.0 km) pipe into the ocean. They also opted to halt the production of fertilizers and started discharging digested sludge into the Santa Monica Bay through a seven-mile (11 km) pipe.[2]

Marine life in Santa Monica Bay suffered from the continuous discharge of 25 million pounds (11 kt) of sludge per month. Samples of the ocean floor where sludge had been discharged for 30 years demonstrated that the only living creatures were worms and a hardy species of clam. Additionally, coastal monitoring revealed that bay waters often did not meet quality standards as the result of Hyperion's effluent. These issues resulted in the city entering into a consent decree with the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the California State Water Resources Control Board to build significant facility upgrades at Hyperion. In 1980, the city launched a massive "sludge-out" project that upgraded the plant to full secondary treatment. Sludge digesters are used to destroy the disease-causing organisms (pathogens).[3] The sludge-out portion of the program was completed in 1987.[citation needed]

The $1.6 billion sludge-out to full secondary construction program replaced nearly every 1950-vintage wastewater processing system at Hyperion while the plant continuously treated 350 million U.S. gallons (1.3 billion liters) per day and met all of its NPDES permit requirements. As of 2016 the plant can treat 450 million U.S. gallons (1.7 billion liters) per day, with a peak wet weather flow (partial treatment during storms) of 800 million U.S. gallons (3.0 billion liters) per day.[3]

Water going through cleaning Process at Hyperion Water Treatment Plant. Majority of the water can be used as reclaimed water and remaining water that is not clean enough goes to the ocean.

The West Basin Municipal Water District purchases approximately 37,600 acre feet (46.4 billion liters), or roughly 9 percent, of Hyperion's secondary effluent for treatment at the Edward C. Little Water Recycling Facility.[citation needed]

Reclaimed water[edit]

Hyperion sewage plant treats approximately 250 million U.S. gallons (950 million liters) of wastewater on a day-to-day basis. Treating this much water on a daily basis takes a lot of energy. Hyperion Sewage plant is one of the largest consumers of electricity, therefore they use different ways to conserve energy to attempt to lower the cost of their process. One of the ways the plant has cut cost is to build its own power plant. The power plant uses methane gas gathered from the waste to fuel the plant, saving money and resources. Some of the wastewater is recycled for landscape irrigation, industrial processes, and groundwater replenishment.[4]

Heal the Bay[edit]

Heal the Bay was founded in 1985 as a result of trying to manage and regulate what was being done at Hyperion during this time. Heal the Bay's original goal was to keep neighboring ocean water near the plant clean. At the time Hyperion was dumping used syringes, condoms, and tampons. Consequently, these products were going into the ocean through a pipeline having harmful effects on the ocean's ecosystem, people visiting the beach, and surfers. It took two years to have Hyperion accountable for their actions, and it took 12 years, along with $12.6 billion, to have Hyperion discharge clean water into the Santa Monica Bay. [5] After this large-scale overhaul of the plant, Hyperion was up to the California regulations that were put in place in 1985.[6]

Heal the Bay in its most recent involvement with the Hyperion Sewage plant has been an informant to the public on what is occurring at the plant. In 2017, Hyperion had to undergo maintenance work on its 5-mile (8.0 km) pipeline that goes into the ocean. Consequently, Hyperion was forced to use its emergency pipeline to empty its water. This led to negative impacts on local beaches such as a rise in chlorine and bacteria levels for two months. Heal the Bay voiced the opinion of the public to share concerns with Hyperion sewage plant to make sure beaches stayed clean and the pipe was ready to go back online as soon as possible.[7]

In popular culture[edit]

Because of its hyper-industrial appearance and its location within the thirty-mile (48 km) "studio zone", the Hyperion plant has been used numerous times as a location for feature films and television shows,[citation needed] among them Battle for the Planet of the Apes and The Terminator.[8]


  1. ^ King, Matt (November 27, 2013). "9 cool facts about the Hyperion Plant".
  2. ^ a b c d "City of Los Angeles - Dept. Public Works". Archived from the original on 2008-07-05.
  3. ^ a b "Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant". LA Sanitation. City of Los Angeles, Department of Public Works. 2016.
  4. ^ "Discovery Education: LA's Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant".
  5. ^ King, Matt (September 24, 2015). "Hyperion Update: One-Mile Outfall No Longer In Use".
  6. ^ Bettina, Boxall (December 8, 1998). "Sewage Plant Is Finally Helping to Heal the Bay". Los Angeles Times.
  7. ^ "Treated Sewage to Be Dumped Out Just One Mile From Los Angeles Beaches For a Bit".
  8. ^ John Landis, "Trailers From Hell - Battle for the Planet of the Apes"

Further reading[edit]

  • Horenstein, B., Hernandez, G., Raspberry, G., Crosse, J. (1990) "Successful dewatering experience at Hyperion wastewater treatment plant", Water Science and Technology, v. 22, p. 183-191
  • Jones-Lepp, T. and Stevens, R. (2007) "Pharmaceuticals and personal care products in biosolids/sewage sludge: the interface between analytical chemistry and regulation", Analytical & Bioanalytical Chemistry, v. 387, p. 1173–1183

External links[edit]