Baykeeper's E-Newsletter for February 19, 2008

Sick of Sewage?
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Sick of Sewage

This month Baykeeper launched its Sick of Sewage campaign to rein in the Bay's sewage spill problem. We hope you'll join us.

On January 31, 2008, heavy rains and operator error caused a huge overflow of sewage at a treatment plant in Marin County. More than 2.5 million gallons of only partially treated sewage spilled out of the plant and into Corte Madera Creek which flows into Richardson Bay.  In fact, this was the second spill to occur in one week. Only six days earlier, the same sewage treatment plant discharged another 2.5 million gallons of sewage after having been overwhelmed by heavy rains. Last week, San Quentin State Prison spilled another 1,500 gallons or more into Richardson Bay.

We decided to kick our decade-long campaign into high gear because sewage infrastructure throughout the Bay Area needs a systemic overhaul.

To kick off the new initiative, Baykeeper took three major actions:
(1) launched an independent investigation into the complete record of recent spills by the Southern Marin sewage agency, including other spills that may not have been properly reported and failures to notify the public;
(2) submitted requests for records of other Bay Area cities with a history of sewage spills; and
(3) filed a lawsuit in federal court against the City of Burlingame for sewage violations.

Baykeeper's research suggests that the City of Burlingame has one of the highest sewage spill rates in the Bay Area and has discharged over 10,000,000 gallons of wastewater through an unpermitted pipeline since 2002. The city's 80-year old underground collection system is in dire need of repair. Baykeeper is suing to force Burlingame to invest aggressively in fixing its sewer pipes and to cease illegal discharges to the Bay near Coyote Point, a popular recreational area.

Similar lawsuits by Baykeeper in recent years have successfully forced Richmond and Vallejo to make major capital improvements to their sewage collection infrastructure and treatment plants. Baykeeper also reached a successful settlement with the East Bay Municipal Utility District in 2005 over the District's failure to treat sewage to the level required by federal law. In addition to compelling cities to upgrade their systems, Baykeeper has developed recommendations to help individuals reduce the burden on their town's sewage treatment systems.