The Orange County Sanitation District is planning to pump treated wastewater into the ocean about a mile offshore of the Santa Ana River Jetties, instead of the usual five miles off, during a construction project beginning in September.
Pumping closer to shore is part of a temporary maintenance project expected to last up to four weeks that aims to fix corroded portions of the 5-mile pipe, which was commissioned in the 1970s.
Sanitation District officials say that swimmers and beachgoers should not notice any changes to ocean water, but they will likely see crews working on equipment at Huntington State Beach near the river outlet.
The beach construction is planned to begin as early as Sept. 4, and the waste material — known as effluent — will be diverted from Sept. 11 through Oct. 14.
"We need to be proactive and do this maintenance to prevent a catastrophic leak," said district Assistant General Manager Jim Herberg.
The Sanitation District has used the shorter pipe only a handful of times for repairs and testing since the 1970s.
Beginning in the past year, the district's wastewater undergoes secondary treatment, where it is essentially disinfected with bleach then dechlorinated with another agent, Herberg said.
"Our outloads are much cleaner than they were in the past," he said.
Usually, the longer outfall pipe releases the effluent 200 feet below the ocean's floor. The shorter pipe ends about 60 feet below.
Herberg said that the district plans to predict and track water quality and where the plume heads. It will post data at http://www.sccoos.org/projects/ocsd-diversion.