The Early Years
In the late 1800s, wastewater from Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reina de Los Angeles was conveyed through natural waterways to the ocean. In 1892, the City purchased 200 acres of oceanfront property and from 1894 until 1925, raw sewage was discharged into near-shore ocean waters at Hyperion's future location.
Visitors to local beaches objected to raw sewage in their recreational waters and in response, the City of Los Angeles built and started operating the first treatment facility at the Hyperion site in 1925: a simple screening plant. This plant remained in operation until 1950.
1950 - A New Full Secondary Plant
The screening plant was not effective in preventing beach closures; highly polluted wastewater was still being discharged into near-shore waters. Just after the end of World War II, the City began to develop plans for a full secondary treatment plant at the Hyperion site. When the new Hyperion Treatment Plant opened in 1950, it included a full secondary treatment system and biosolids processing to produce a heat-dried fertilizer. It was among the first facilities in the world to capture energy from biogas by operating anaerobic digesters, which have yielded a fuel gas by-product for over 50 years. At the time, Hyperion was the first large secondary treatment plant on the West Coast, and one of the most modern facilities in the world.
In the 1950s, the population of Los Angeles grew dramatically. To keep up with this growth and the associated higher wastewater flows, Hyperion’s treatment levels were cut back. By 1957, the new plant was discharging a blend of secondary and primary effluent through a five-mile ocean outfall. Hyperion also stopped its biosolids-to-fertilizer program and began discharging digested sludge into Santa Monica Bay through a separate, seven-mile ocean outfall.
1980s – Sludge out of Santa Monica Bay
Marine life in Santa Monica Bay suffered from the continuous discharge of 25 million pounds of wastewater solids (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 U.S. EPA and the State of California to built major facility upgrades at Hyperion. In 1980, Los Angeles launched a massive sludge-out to full secondary program to capture all biosolids and keep them from entering the Bay. The sludge-out portion of the program was completed in 1987.
1990s – Full Secondary System Rebuilt
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 mgd and met all NPDES permit requirements. The full secondary system, completed in 1998, meant:
- treatment capacity was expanded to prevent virtually all minute particles suspended in effluent from being discharged to the ocean environment
- production of the cleanest effluent in over 100 years
- the end of wastewater spills at Hyperion
- a 95% reduction in the amount of wastewater solids going into Santa Monica Bay
- the elimination of the Bay's ecological dead-zone near the mouth of the sludge outfall
- vast improvements in biological integrity of the bottom-dwelling marine community
- remarkable increases in the relative abundance of many indicator-species
- partnerships among the public, regulatory agencies, government and discharges that led to one of the great environmental achievements of the 20th Century.
Today, further improvements at Hyperion are being planned and built to keep the plant on the leading edge environmental protection. Air emission controls continue to represent the leading edge of technology. Odor management facilities are integrated in all improvements. Resource recovery programs capitalize upon every possible opportunity to recycle renewable resources of wastewater and sludge treatment by-products.