Regional Water Quality Control Plant

The mission of the Regional Water Quality Control Plant (RWQCP) is to protect San Francisco Bay by cleaning and treating wastewater before it is discharged to San Francisco Bay.

Owned and operated by the City of Palo Alto, the Plant treats wastewater for the communities of Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Mountain View, Palo Alto, Stanford University and the East Palo Alto Sanitary District.

Regional Water Quality Control Plant
2501 Embarcadero Way, Palo Alto, CA 94303
650-329-2598

QUICK INFORMATION

Explore the Regional Water Quality Control Plant


tour the regional water quality control plant

Take a walking tour of the Regional Water Quality Control Plant and see how operators, scientists, engineers, and educators work together to clean 20 million gallons of wastewater daily before it’s released to San Francisco Bay. Tours are offered on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday with an appointment. Students must be aged 6th grade or higher. Closed-toe shoes are required.


To schedule a tour, see our updated Plant Tour Request Form and Guidelines or call (650) 329-2598.


BIOSOLIDS

The RWQCP constructed and commissioned a new biosolids facility in 2019. The sewage sludge incinerators used since 1972 were formally decommissioned in 2019.

Biosolids Facility Plan Update – FINAL DRAFT

Sludge Dewatering Facility Factsheet


NEW EFFLUENT OUTFALL PIPE

The RWQCP is pursuing the construction of an additional outfall pipe to convey effluent (cleaned and treated wastewater) to San Francisco Bay. The new pipe would run adjacent to the existing outfall pipe which releases effluent near the Palo Alto Airport.

Construction efforts would also include maintenance for the existing 52-year old outfall pipe, and pump replacement for effluent discharged to nearby Renzel Marsh adjacent to East Bayshore Road. Together, these projects would ensure reliable transport of treated effluent under projected climate change and sea level rise scenarios. Both projects are recommendations of the Long Range Facilities Plan (LRFP), completed in October 2012 and accepted by Council in July 2012 (Staff Report ID 2914).

Project documents:

City Council Staff Report (ID#7245): Design Services for WQCP Primary Outfall Line Design (October 17, 2016)

Regional Water Quality Control Plant New Outfall Project: Mitigated Negative Declaration

Notice of Intent (NOI) to Adopt a Draft Initial Study and Proposed Mitigated Negative Declaration

Resolution No. 9630. Resolution of the Council of the City of Palo Alto Approving the financial Assistance Application to the State Water Resources Control Board for Capital Improvement Projects Applicable to the Regional Water Quality Control Plant


LABORATORY

ELAP Cert # 1087
EPA Lab Code CA00179

The Laboratory’s primary function is to provide analytical services to the water quality control plant in compliance with Palo Alto’s  NPDES permit.  We provide additional services to the water transmissions department which includes analyzing Palo Alto’s potable water supply.  We are accredited by ELAP in the following fields of testing: volatile organic, inorganic, toxic elements and microbiology.  We follow a variety of methodology including 40 CFR part 136, Standard Methods and EPA in accordance with State and Federal Regulations for wastewater, sludge, and potable water.

Our laboratory staff hold analyst certifications from CWEA, including three Grade IVs.  The lab consists of 3 lab technicians, 2 chemists, 2 senior chemists and 1 lab Manager.

Primary instrumentation on site include: GCMS and ICPMS.


RENZEL MARSH

The City of Palo Alto Regional Water Quality Control Plant (RWQCP) designed and constructed the freshwater Renzel Marsh Pond along East Bayshore Road in 1992. This project was a requirement of the Regional Water Quality Control Board, which regulates the RWQCP, and provided a beneficial reuse for treated wastewater effluent. Today, Renzel Marsh Pond receives cleaned and treated wastewater effluent from the RWQCP that travels into Matadero Creek, the Palo Alto Flood Basin and then into San Francisco Bay.

What Happens After It’s Flushed


RWQCP Partners with sewer coronavirus alert network to track infectious disease

The Palo Alto Regional Water Quality Control Plant partners with Sewer Coronavirus Alert Network (SCAN) to track rates of infectious disease occurrence in the RWQCP service area. Monitoring these trends helps public health officials flag when specific diseases are increasing, such as influenza, coronavirus. To view pathogen data collected from the RWQCP visit data.wastewaterscan.org.


Per- and poly- fluoralkyl substances (PFAS) monitoring

PFAS are a family of chemicals found in consumer and industrial products, including non-stick coatings, waterproofing materials, and manufacturing additives. PFAS are known as “forever chemicals” because they are highly persistent and take years to degrade naturally in the environment. Scientific studies have shown that exposure to PFAS chemicals is linked to harmful health effects in humans and animals. Studies focused on the Bay’s wildlife, including fish, bird eggs, and harbor seals, are seeing concerning PFAS levels that may pose a risk to the Bay’s ecosystem health.

Regional studies are being conducted to understand PFAS presence in wastewater and biosolids because evidence has shown that PFAS chemicals are not removed during the wastewater treatment system process. In 2020, the RWQCP was selected as one of 14 Bay Area treatment plants to provide samples for a San Francisco Estuary Institute Regional Monitoring Program PFAS study. Participation in this research helped inform future monitoring strategies and showed that PFAS levels are comparable across all agencies treating wastewater.

The City of Palo Alto will continue participating in regional PFAS research efforts and is planning a future survey to identify potential industrial sources of PFAS in its service area. The goal of this effort will be to identify PFAS pollution prevention measures.

For more information about regional PFAS efforts, visit bacwa.org/pfas-links/.


RWQCP ANNUAL REPORTS

2022 RWQCP Annual Report

2022 Recycled Water Report


PERMITS

NPDES Permit

Watershed Nutrient Order

Watershed Mercury and PCB Order

Recycled Water Board Order

RWQCP Permit to Operate – Air Permit