What's that smell?

MWWTP EBMUD helps protect public health and the San Francisco Bay by providing reliable, continuous wastewater treatment and innovative pollution prevention programs. The Wastewater Treatment Plant in West Oakland, located at the base of the Bay Bridge, treats wastewater from 740,000 people along the eastern shore of San Francisco Bay.

Due to the nature of wastewater, unpleasant odors can be produced at working wastewater treatment plants under certain circumstances. EBMUD values being a good neighbor, and makes every effort to reduce odors from our wastewater treatment plant.

Odor control efforts 

The first step EBMUD takes in preventing odors is adding high-strength bleach to the wastewater before it enters our plant. The bleach helps break down the compounds in the water that can cause a “rotten egg” smell.

As the wastewater enters our treatment plant, we capture the foul air that it may generate and treat it with robust dual-stage filters before releasing the purified air into the atmosphere. This includes biofilters, which use microorganisms to remove a broad range of smells, and activated carbon filters for final polishing.

In addition to the bleach and dual-stage filters, EBMUD employs many other odor control systems. We monitor the effectiveness of these systems using real-time analyzers. These analyzers inform us of critical maintenance such as timely replacement of odor filters to ensure effective treatment.

Over the past 17 years, EBMUD has spent approximately $14 million in capital improvements for odor control at our wastewater treatment plant. EBMUD staff continues to implement and evaluate additional improvements and operational strategies to reduce odors.

Report odors 

EBMUD recognizes that odors from the treatment plant can have an impact on our neighbors’ quality of life. If you are near EBMUD's wastewater treatment plant in West Oakland and experience an odor issue, please contact us. 

To report odors: fill out the odor report form or call the Odor Control Hotline at 510-287-1522.

One of the questions we will ask you is to describe the nature of the odor. This is because, in addition to EBMUD’s wastewater treatment plant, there are other potential causes of odors in West Oakland. These include:

  • The San Francisco Bay tidal flats, which often smell unpleasant during low tide
  • Two recycling centers in West Oakland
  • The City of Oakland’s sewers which may release odors via vented manholes in the streets

After you contact us, we will immediately investigate to determine if the odor is from our treatment plant.  If we determine that it is, we will take actions to reduce the odors. If you provide your contact information, we will follow up with you. Our goal is to be a good neighbor and take immediate action when we can.