Goleta Sanitary District Wastewater Treatment Upgrade

Heal the Ocean successfully advocated for the upgrade of the Goleta Sanitary District wastewater treatment plant to full secondary treatment. This project has helped protect marine life and ocean recreation by cleaning up wastewater discharged only a mile off Goleta Beach.


When the federal Clean Water Act passed in 1972, all wastewater treatment plants were required to upgrade their treatment facilities to full secondary level. The 301h Waiver provision in the Act gave treatment plants time to complete this work. When Heal the Ocean formed in 1998, Goleta Sanitary District was one of the few wastewater treatment plants in California still operating on this waiver, and reapplying every five years to continue discharging into the ocean wastewater that was only partially treated to secondary levels. Thirty years after the Clean Water Act, Heal the Ocean took action to stop this delay.

Key Milestones

  • 2000

    ​Goleta Sanitary District Applies for another Five-Year Waiver from Secondary Treatment Requirement.

    Goleta Sanitary District applies to the Central Coast Regional Water Board for a fourth five-year waiver from Section 301(b) of the Clean Water Act, which mandates that publicly owned wastewater treatment plants achieve secondary treatment on their discharges.

  • April 2002

    Regional Water Board Denies GSD Waiver from Secondary Treatment Requirement

    Heal the Ocean convinces the Central Coast Regional Water Board to deny the 301(b) waiver. Key testimony was our 3 minute underwater video of Heal the Ocean Executive Director Hillary Hauser and Heal the Ocean supporter Jeff Maassen diving on the Goleta outfall, 1 mile offshore in 90 feet of water.

  • 2002

    Goleta Sanitary District Files Appeal with State Water Board to Overturn Ruling

    Heal the Ocean hires former Environmental Defense Center attorney Vicki Clark to help us fight this appeal. We attend State Water Board workshops on the issue, and the State Water Board ultimately remands the case back to the Regional Water Board for "more documentation" from Goleta Sanitary District that would support their waiver.

  • 2003

    Heal the Ocean Asks Regional Water Board to Uphold Original Decision

    Heal the Ocean hires consultants, including Craig Barilotti, to provide evidence of beach pollution to the Regional Water Board.

  • January 2004

    State Water Board Denies GSD Appeal of Regional Water Board Decision

    Heal the Ocean Executive Director Hillary Hauser and Attorney Vicki Clark travel to Sacramento to receive surprise ruling from the State Water Board upholding denial of waiver. (State Water Board staff had recommended upholding the appeal.)

  • November 2004

    Goleta Sanitary District and Regional Water Board Reach Settlement Agreement for Secondary Treatment Upgrade

    With input from Heal the Ocean, and our legal representation Marco Gonzalez of Coast Law Group, the Regional Water Board and Goleta Sanitary District reach a settlement agreement requiring a ten-year implementation and construction schedule for the upgrade of Goleta Sanitary District facilities to full secondary treatment. Heal the Ocean contracts with engineering firm Metcalf & Eddy on an upgrade schedule that is ultimately included as a part of the settlement agreement.

    [Add link to settlement agreement News-Press Article]

  • October 2014

    Goleta Sanitary District Completes Construction on Full Secondary Treatment Facilities

    Goleta Sanitary District completes the ten-year $40 million project to upgrade its treatment facilities to full secondary treatment on-time and under-budget.

    This project will significantly reduce the discharges of waste solids to marine waters off Goleta's coast and better protect recreational users at UCSB's Campus Point and Goleta Beach from potentially harmful pathogens.

Heal the Ocean is Invited to Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for new Wastewater Facilities

After years of effort, the upgrade to Goleta Sanitary District's wastewater treatment facilities is completed, and Heal the Ocean is invited to a ribbon cutting ceremony for the completed project.


Heal the Ocean commends Goleta Sanitary District's board and staff for 

completing this project on time and under-budget 

for the benefit of the entire Goleta community.

Proud Corporate Supporters of Heal the Ocean

Individual Donors

  • Robert Feldman
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