NASA helps measure effluent plume and algal growth in the Santa Monica Bay

A recent article posted on the reveals the efforts of The Hyperion Treatment Plant in Playa del Rey, California, as operated by the City of Los Angeles’ Bureau of Sanitation and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory working together to measure effluent plume and algal growth during a diversion of Hyperion’s offshore pipeline while the main line was due for repairs.

Last fall, this discharge pipe had to be shut down for repairs for six weeks. The treated effluent was diverted to an older pipe that terminates 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) offshore, 49 feet (15 meters) deep. In shallower, warmer water, nutrients from the effluent plume are more likely to enhance phytoplankton growth, among other risks to water quality.

To keep a closer-than-usual watch on the bay during this diversion, LA’s Environmental Monitoring Division called on the research institutions that comprise the Southern California Coastal Ocean Observing System (SCCOOS), including NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. SCCOOS is one of 11 national observing groups that collect scientific data along the coastline to inform decision-making and better understand the changing conditions of the coastal ocean. JPL provided measurements related to the effluent plume and algal growth from five satellite instruments, in coordination with the Environmental Monitoring Division and other local research institutions collecting data from shore and ships.

Scientists Benjamin Holt and Michelle Gierach of JPL had analyzed satellite data acquired during two earlier wastewater diversions in Southern California, with the help of university students in NASA’s DEVELOP program. This program applies the agency’s Earth observations to important environmental issues while cultivating the scientists of tomorrow. “Nearly all the satellite data processing and analysis were done by the DEVELOP team,” Holt said. “We developed and verified what satellites could do to help monitor water quality in the coastal zone. Hence with this diversion, we were in a position to analyze the data quickly. Within a day or two of [data] acquisition, we provided results to Hyperion.”

Find the full article here.

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Megan Barillo

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