In the same issue, Matt Coker's A Clockwork Orange highlights a county plan to dump a higher percentage of primary-treated water—an undesirable proposal, to say the least. The problem is that growth has outstripped the size of the plants. Treatment plants in LA and San Diego have dumped untreated sludge offshore for years, on permit waivers from the Environmental Protection Agency; Orange County generally does a much better job.

Just to clarify, primary treatment is simply skimming the floating materials from the top (despite what you may think, this mostly includes paper, rags, grease and even accidentally flushed money). Secondary treatment involves introducing oxygen into the water, creating an environment where aerobic bacteria will flourish and eat most of the "nutrients" in the water. If processing is done right, secondary water dumped offshore will be much cleaner than the ocean water into which it is being dumped. These processes do not involve adding "chemicals," unless Coker counts oxygen as a chemical.

Water from the Colorado River is treated like this as it moves toward Southern California, passing through an average of six to seven human bodies before it reaches your tap.

—James Repka, geology department, Saddleback College, Mission Viejo
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