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 located in southwest Los Angeles, California, next to Dockweiler State Beach on Santa Monica Bay. This 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].


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 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 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 which 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 gallons per day and met all of its NPDES permit requirements. As of 2016 the plant can treat 450 million gallons per day, with a peak wet weather flow (partial treatment during storms) of million gallons 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 AF,[clarification needed] or roughly 9 percent of Hyperion's secondary effluent for treatment at the Edward C. Little Water Recycling Facility.

Reclaimed Water[edit]

Hyperion sewage plant recycles 250 million gallons of wastewater on a day to day basis. To put this in perspective that would fill upon 400 olympic size swimming pools. Recycling this much water on a daily basis takes a lot of energy to have water cleaned thoroughly. 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 decided to cut cost is build their own power plant to lower external costs for their operation. The new power plant will use methane gas that will use the gas gathered from the waste the facility collects fueling the power plant; this saves the plant money and resources. This recycled water is used for landscape irrigation, industrial processes and groundwater replenishment throughout the 29 cities in the Los Angeles county. Hyperion is not the first plant to use this system to clean their water, but they are the first to do it on this large of a scale[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 and this nonprofit succeeded in their mission. 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 a 12.6 billion price tag, to finally have Hyperion discharge clean water into the Santa Monica Bay. [5] After this large scale overhaul of the plant, Hyperion was finally up to 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 informant to the public on what is occurring at the plant. In 2017, Hyperion had to undergo maintenance work on its 5 mile 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 "studio zone," the Hyperion plant has been used numerous times as a location for feature films and television shows, among them Battle for the Planet of the Apes and The Terminator.[8]

A number of scenes for The Monkees film Head were filmed inside the plant in early 1968. The shots included upstairs and downstairs angles, the use of a crane and an assembly line, and a general walk-through of the main part of the plant with the Monkees and actor Charles Macaulay ("Inspector Shrink").

In an episode of the TV detective series Cannon (Season 1, Episode 16: "The Treasure of San Ignacio;" January 11th, 1972), Frank Cannon calls on a retired detective to help him recover stolen religious relics from a Mexican church. In the finale, Cannon tracks down the sole surviving thief to the Hyperion plant (marked "condemned" by a sign on the building) and rescues the priest from the church with the help of the thief's girlfriend and his retired detective friend.

A key scene in the 1973 film Soylent Green was shot at the plant. It portrayed the factory that produced the bland yet nutritious "Soylent" wafers.

The plant is featured in several scenes in the 1956 science fiction film Earth vs. the Flying Saucers. It's used to portray a science laboratory where a weapon is developed for use against the invading UFOs. The same area of the plant was also used for several scenes in the film Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie.

Hyperion was used as the filming location for the final scene in the music video for t.A.T.u.'s "White Robe", filmed in October 2007.


  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). [www.latimes.com "Sewage Plant Is Finally Helping to Heal the Bay"] Check |url= value (help). 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]