A Look Back in History: Golden Gate Park Sewer Plant

The first sewage treatment plant in San Francisco was built at the end of Golden Gate Park located at the Southwest corner of the park adjacent to the Southwest, or Murphy, Windmill. It was, of course, an operation of the Department of Public Works at the time.

Golden Gate Park Sewage Treatment Plant – September 3, 1935.

As described in a 1937 paper, “The Beautification and Irrigation of Golden Gate Park with Activated Sludge Effluent”, by Charles Gilman Hyde, which he presented at the Ninth Annual Convention of the California Sewage Works Association:

“By 1926, because of the excessive cost of water from the public supply, the Park Commission began to give consideration to the possibility of treatment of the available supply of sewage to the condition where it could be employed with satisfaction, from aesthetic and hygienic standpoints, for irrigation purposes.”

“In 1932, arrangements were made with the McQueen Sewage Disposal Company for the construction of an activated sludge treatment plant having a nominal capacity of one million gallons per day. Construction was begun in April and completed in August of that year.”

“Since completion the chlorinated plant effluent has been used in the westerly half of Golden Gate Park. Lakes, artificial brooks and waterfalls have been created and maintained; irrigation by means of ditches has been practices on occasion, and a limited amount of sprinkling by pressure pipe and hose has been made possible, notably in the stadium.”

Richmond / Sunset Treatment Plant Facing the Great Highway (not dated).

The treatment plant that has since “grown up” grew up” is shown below. Situated in the same general location as the quaint little plant on a well-landscaped plot, the Richmond / Sunset Treatment Plant was serving neighborhoods that had grown considerably.

Specifications for the Public Works Administration plant were established in 1937 and the project was completed in January 1939 at a construction cost of $2,377,034 and a project cost of $2,581,277. The approximate elevation is 33 feet (10 meters) above sea level. The Oceanside Treatment Plant came online in 1993 to replace the Richmond/Sunset Treatment Plant. The latter was demolished in 1996. But, as recently as 2010, the SFPUC considered using the same location to rebuild a new treatment plant for the conversion of wastewater to greywater for irrigation. That plan was tabled in consideration of the concerns of local citizenry.

Southwest corner of Golden Gate Park showing Treatment Plant and body of the Windmill [sails missing] (not dated).