In 2002, Baykeeper compelled Dow Chemical’s Pittsburg plant to keep dangerous toxic chemicals from contaminating Suisun Bay, an inlet of San Francisco Bay.
Dow’s pollution included a long list of chemicals that cause cancer and reproductive harm, including chlorinated solvents. In addition to polluting the Bay, the contamination had reached groundwater four miles upstream from a Contra Costa Water District drinking water intake.
The victory came after a five-year court fight. Dow signed a legally-binding agreement with Baykeeper requiring the company to meet yearly targets for a multi-million dollar cleanup of the pollution.
As a result, the company pumped out and treated the toxic groundwater. They also installed a system that used naturally existing bacteria, along with substances that included molasses, to break down the contaminants into less harmful by-products.
To partly make up for its pollution, Dow paid a $3 million penalty. $1.75 million of the funds went to Ducks Unlimited and the California Coastal Conservancy to restore and acquire wetlands at Bel Marin Keys near Novato in Marin County. The remaining funds were used to restore additional wetlands around the Bay and to improve the Bay’s water quality.
This year Baykeeper celebrates 25 years of successful action to protect San Francisco Bay from pollution. In honor of our 25th anniversary, we are highlighting key victories for the Bay over the course of our history, including this court fight that both stopped pollution from a major corporation and led to restoration of important Bay wildlife habitat.