By Nate Seltenrich

The city of Novato completed its $100 million new wastewater treatment plant in 2011. Raising the old plant was expensive, but helped protect it from sea level rise for at least this century. “We took a pretty conservative approach,” says general manager Sandeep Karkal, “but we think we’re in pretty good shape, even for a worst-case scenario.” Novato is far from alone in thinking about the impact of sea level rise on wastewater management. New York City recently discovered how complex the issue can be. After Hurricane Sandy, the Department of Environmental Protection, which oversees New York’s wastewater system, prepared a detailed report on vulnerabilities and adaptation strategies at all facilities. By spending $187 million across all 14 plants, the city could theoretically avoid $901 million in damages from a critical flood event such as a 100-year flood plus 30 inches of sea level rise. Here in the Bay Area, Novato is ahead of the curve, but other cities aren’t far behind.

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NYC and Novato Sewage Plants Adapt

By Nate Seltenrich

The city of Novato completed its $100 million new wastewater treatment plant in 2011. Raising the old plant was expensive, but helped protect it from sea level rise for at least this century. “We took a pretty conservative approach,” says general manager Sandeep Karkal, “but we think we’re in pretty good shape, even for a worst-case scenario.” Novato is far from alone in thinking about the impact of sea level rise on wastewater management. New York City recently discovered how complex the issue can be. After Hurricane Sandy, the Department of Environmental Protection, which oversees New York’s wastewater system, prepared a detailed report on vulnerabilities and adaptation strategies at all facilities. By spending $187 million across all 14 plants, the city could theoretically avoid $901 million in damages from a critical flood event such as a 100-year flood plus 30 inches of sea level rise. Here in the Bay Area, Novato is ahead of the curve, but other cities aren’t far behind.

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About the author

Nate Seltenrich is a freelance science and environmental journalist who covers infrastructure, restoration, and related topics for Estuary. He also contributes to the San Francisco Chronicle, Sonoma and Marin magazines, the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, and other local and national publications, on subjects ranging from public lands and renewable energy to the human health impacts of climate change. He lives in Petaluma with his wife, two boys, and four ducks. www.nate-reports.com

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