Sometimes it’s hard to see, but every ecosystem in our world influences others. Just as changes in mountain climates can affect deserts, so can forest conditions affect an ocean. This interconnectivity is why, at the United Nations Biodiversity Summit in December 2022, world leaders committed to the “30x30” goal: a pledge to protect 30% of our planet’s lands, freshwater and oceans by 2030.
The UN is further focusing on the 30x30 goal for World Ocean Day 2023 with this year’s theme: “One Ocean, One Climate, One Future Together.” This goal will allow ocean wildlife to become abundant again and give the climate a better chance at stabilizing. Hitting the 30x30 goal will also be good for the economy — according to a study by leading climate scientists, expanding protected areas to 30% of the earth’s surface would generate anywhere from $64 billion to $454 billion in extra revenue compared to non-expansion by 2050. This revenue would come from a wide range of sectors, including tourism, fisheries, forestry and agriculture.
Since 2009, the UN has declared June 8 as World Ocean Day. The day of action raises awareness about benefits humans derive from oceans and our responsibility to protect ocean resources in a way that ensures future generations can also enjoy them. These benefits include about 50% to 80% of the earth’s oxygen production, according to estimates from the National Ocean Service in the U.S., along with food harvesting and artistic inspiration.
At PCL, we understand the critical role that oceans play in our global ecosystem. We’ve built projects close to the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans across North America, and we’ve taken great care to respect and protect the environment when working close to water. Many of these projects have contributed to societal understanding of the ocean, its benefits and preservation. PCL employees have participated in beach cleanups and other community events that have an immediate positive impact on oceanside communities and the health of aquatic ecosystems.
On the Pacific coast of the United States, PCL is working with the West Valley Water District to expand the capacity of the Oliver P. Roemer Water Filtration Facility in Rialto, California, from 14.4 million to 21.6 million gallons per day of California State Water Project water. The expanded capacity will allow the WVWD to replenish groundwater basins in wet years so they can be drawn upon in dry years. Alongside the expansion, the WVWD is implementing a conjunctive use strategy, which is critical for long-term, sustainable management of water in the San Bernardino Valley, east of Los Angeles.
Using a design-build delivery method, PCL, the WVWD, Stantec and other partners are collaborating to create efficiencies in the design and construction of new influent and effluent pump stations and a new filter building with three Trident Package treatment systems. We’re also replacing the ultraviolet reactors and recovery pumps, replacing the granular activated carbon influent pumps, and installing 30-inch treated water pipes. The expansion also includes an educational facility where residents and local students can learn to use water more wisely.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, PCL worked with Miami-Dade County in Florida to build a new oxygen generation facility at their Central District Wastewater Treatment Plant. The new vacuum pressure swing adsorption (VPSA) systems replaced a 50-year-old cryogenic oxygen system that relied on outdated motors and other equipment. The VPSA system has high-efficiency electric motors that meet new efficiency guidelines set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, and they can also be turned down to 50% capacity to save power when needed.
The electrical infrastructure in the new oxygen facility has been hardened, meaning it’s more resilient and will be able to withstand rising sea levels in the future. The facility will also help Miami-Dade County fulfill the terms of a federally mandated consent decree with the EPA and the FDEP that sets a hard date by which the County will eliminate ocean outfall from its wastewater collection and treatment system.
Back in California, PCL has partnered with the City of San Luis Obispo on improvements to their water resource recovery facility, which treats wastewater from city residents, California Polytechnic State University and the San Luis Obispo County Airport. These upgrades will increase the capacity of the plant from 3.1 million to 5.4 million gallons per day, and they will allow the City to meet new discharge requirements, replace aging equipment and maximize the production of recycled water. Discharging highly treated effluent water into the San Luis Obispo Creek will benefit communities and ecosystems downstream, and it will play a big part in the City’s Climate Action Plan, which sets a goal of being carbon neutral by 2035.
Improvements to the water resource recovery facility include membrane bioreactors and ultraviolet disinfection systems; a new odor control system; an expanded flow-equalization basin; new chemical facilities; new primary effluent screens; and modifications to existing digesters, tanks and electrical systems. A new Water Resource Center was also built, which includes a process laboratory and educational space.
PCL is committed to building a better future — through the projects we build and by giving back to organizations doing good work in communities. To that end, we’ve pledged $3,500 to The Ocean Foundation, whose mission is “to support, strengthen and promote those organizations dedicated to reversing the trend of destruction of ocean environments around the world.”
The Ocean Foundation sponsors projects around the world that focus on four key areas: ocean literacy, protecting species, conserving habitats, and building the capacity of the marine conservation community. They work with corporations to engage their employees on ocean issues and make positive impacts against threats. And they run their own conservation initiatives on ocean acidification, plastic pollution and building coastal resilience.
- Use fewer plastic products: According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, 14 million tons of plastic wind up in oceans every year, and plastic makes up 80% of all marine debris. Marine animals can ingest or get entangled in this debris, causing severe injury or death. Plastics can destroy marine habitats. Keep in mind where products end up when they go down the drain.
- Eat sustainably: Be aware of where your seafood comes from. Overfishing can lead to fish population depletion and habitat destruction. Look for labels like the Marine Stewardship Council Blue Label that certify seafood comes from a sustainable source.
- Use eco-friendly products: Dish soaps, laundry detergents and personal care items may contain chemicals (such as phosphates, parabens, antimicrobial agents and artificial fragrances) or plastic microbeads that can harm marine life. Look for products that don’t contain these materials and come in reusable or recyclable containers.