Surprising Sustainability at the Hayward Water Pollution Control Facility

by Ciaran Gallagher, CivicSpark Fellow

“If we’re doing our job right, you don’t notice us because it doesn’t smell.” David, the Manager of Hayward’s Water Pollution Control Facility (WPCF) explained the key to the facilities’ success to us. Us being two CivicSpark Fellows working for the City of Hayward for the next year and the Solid Waste Program Manager, Jeff Krump, on a tour of the wastewater treatment plant in Hayward’s backyard. But as we walked across the expansive site, we quickly realized that wastewater treatment is much more complicated than that. Chemicals, microorganisms, maintaining equipment, and physics of water flow – these are daily concerns at the WPCF.

And this facility does more than just take in sewer water that includes grease, organic matter, and “disposable” wipes, and then discharge clean water into the Bay, a huge task in and of itself. The WPCF also generates its own electricity with a co-generation engine fueled by biogas, which is produced by anaerobic digesters. Microorganisms in the digesters break down organic materials without oxygen and create methane. The Water Pollution Control Facility also generates electricity to power City Facilities across Hayward with its one mega-watt solar array. Oh, and they plan to install another two mega-watts of solar in the next year.

No wonder this facility has received the 2015 Green Power Leadership Award and the 2016 Acterra Award for Environmental Leadership. It has also been highlighted in the Clean Water Environment Association magazine, a case study for the ICLEI newsletter, and the Western City Magazine for its commitment to decreasing greenhouse gas emissions and workforce development.

The Water Pollution Control Facility serves the Hayward community by cleaning wastewater and producing electricity. The WPCF also serves the community by giving tours to students in elementary school, high school, and continuing education to demonstrate the power of applied STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). Each of the many cleaning processes are biological, chemical, or physical. And the flow rates and pump systems require mathematical and engineering knowledge. Putting these sometimes abstract subjects into concrete and tactile terms engages students, and even the parents, at all ages.

There are many aspects of Hayward that make it a unique and forward-thinking home. You wouldn’t think where your wastewater was treated would be one of them. But then again, they are doing their job right so you don’t notice their work as you walk down the street.

Trickling filter reduces biological oxygen demand (BOD) and  total suspended solids through a biological process

Secondary clarify removes suspended solids, organic matter, which are then thickened and broken down in anaerobic digesters. The digesters produce biogas that fuel the on-site co-generation engine.

The co-generation engine generates enough electricity to run the entire WPCF. 

1MW of solar panels generate electricity for City facilities in field behind WPCF