Sewage pollution from South San Francisco is no longer a problem in San Francisco Bay, marking a new success in Baykeeper’s Sick of Sewage campaign. In 2011, Baykeeper won a legal agreement from South San Francisco requiring the city to fix its sewage pollution problem within five years. Now, the city has finished three years ahead of schedule.
South San Francisco, a city of 64,000 on the eastern shoreline of the Peninsula, formerly did not maintain its sewer collection system properly. The poor maintenance led to rain seeping into sewage pipes, causing ruptures and backups. The result was that every rainy season, untreated sewage spilled out and washed into storm drains and creeks that empty into the Bay. To compel South San Francisco to curb the pollution, Baykeeper sued the city in 2010 under the Clean Water Act.
In 2011, Baykeeper secured a legally-binding agreement requiring South San Francisco to improve its sewage operations and management practices. The city also agreed to make $300,000 in grants to eligible homeowners for replacement of worn-out household sewer lines that contributed to sewage spills. South San Francisco has now completed all its required actions, and as a result, the city’s rate of sewage spills has been reduced to below the minimum that Baykeeper required. We are extremely pleased with the city’s efforts and the resulting decrease in pollution to the Bay.
Sewage pollution has been one of the most serious threats to the Bay’s health due to crumbling sewer infrastructure. Each year during the rainy season, partially treated and raw sewage gets spilled from leaky sewer pipes directly into the Bay or into local waterways that empty into the Bay.
Sewage contains bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens. When windsurfers, swimmers, boaters, fishermen, and others come in contact with water polluted with sewage, the result can be persistent skin and sinus infections and painful stomach disorders. Sewage can also deplete oxygen in the Bay, threatening fish, seals, other sea creatures, and plant life.
Six years ago, Baykeeper launched our Sick of Sewage campaign to stop sewage spills. Last year, we reached a milestone of compelling the region’s worst-polluting sewage systems to make needed upgrades. Sewer agencies serving 20 Bay Area cities are now required to repair crumbling pipes and replace outdated infrastructure, on a year-by-year timetable. Some cities have reduced sewage spills by 50-75%. South San Francisco is the first city to finish upgrading its sewer system early.
Baykeeper will continue to watchdog Bay Area sewage systems to assure that they complete required repairs and upgrades. We expect to keep making steady progress over the next five to ten years, until sewage ceases to be a major pollution threat to the Bay.
Photo by Chris D (Flickr/CC)