Baykeeper Update

New Progress to Reduce Sewage Pollution in the Bay

The Bay Area’s worst-polluting sewer agencies are spilling less sewage into San Francisco Bay, thanks to Baykeeper’s Sick of Sewage campaign.

Sewage pollution has been one of the most serious threats to the Bay’s health due to crumbling Bay Area sewer infrastructure. During the rainy season, millions of gallons of partially treated and raw sewage have spilled directly into the Bay or into storm drains, creeks, rivers, and sloughs that empty into the Bay.

But now, Baykeeper’s legal actions have compelled sewage agencies serving 20 Bay Area cities to make upgrades and repairs to stop sewage spills. We have legally-binding agreements requiring these sewer systems to replace miles of cracked pipes, boost inspections, and improve their infrastructure, on a year-by-year timetable.

Baykeeper recently reviewed these sewer agencies’ progress in 2012, and several are ahead of their required timetables for making upgrades. One agency, serving South San Francisco, has fixed its sewage pollution problem three years ahead of schedule. Below are more highlights of progress during 2012:

Burlingame has reduced its number of sewage spills from its main lines from 23 in 2007 to six in 2012. The city was also far below its limit on spills from the pipes connecting homes and businesses to the main lines. Burlingame is well ahead of its required timetable to reduce sewage spills.

Burlingame Hills reduced its sewage spills in 2012 to a rate below the limit set by Baykeeper. The sewer agency is working with other districts in San Mateo County to schedule preventive maintenance work and assess problem areas.

Hillsborough reported 11 spills in 2012, down from 45 in 2008. Hillsborough is now working to correct system-wide capacity problems, in collaboration with Burlingame and Burlingame Hills. Fixing capacity problems requires costly, long-term projects, so it takes longer to reduce sewage spill rates.

Millbrae made major progress in 2012, after exceeding the limit of sewage spills allowed under its agreement with Baykeeper in 2011. Millbrae had 13 sewage spills in 2012, down from 2011’s 49. Over the past year, Millbrae focused on its problems areas and is now back on track to continue meeting its obligations to reduce sewage spills.

Richmond/West County Wastewater District has had sewage capacity problems for years, and is slowly progressing on sewer line repairs. Although Richmond has reduced its sewage spill rate somewhat, the city still has the highest volume of spilled sewage in California. Baykeeper is working on several fronts to get Richmond’s problems under control. Our advocacy recently led to a tightening of Richmond’s sewage discharge permit that puts limits on Richmond’s discharge of mixtures of treated and untreated sewage into the Bay. Over the coming year, we will continue to work closely with Richmond to improve the city’s sewer system performance.

South San Francisco has made great improvements in a short time. Baykeeper’s legal agreement required South San Francisco to fix its sewage pollution problem within five years, but the city has finished three years ahead of schedule. We are extremely pleased with the city’s efforts and the resulting decrease in pollution in the Bay. Learn more about South San Francisco cleaning up its sewage spills to the Bay.

San Bruno achieved a dramatic reduction from 54 sewage spills in 2008 to 12 in 2012, and the city is well ahead of its requirements for reducing sewage spills.

San Carlos had 12 sewage spills in its main lines and 13 spills in the pipes that connect homes and businesses to the main lines. San Carlos is ahead of its timetable for reducing main line sewage spills, and the city will continue its efforts to repair and clean its sewer system.

Baykeeper will continue to monitor the sewer agencies that have agreed to clean up their pollution. We expect steady reductions in sewage spills over the coming years, until sewage ceases to be a major threat to San Francisco Bay.

View a map of Bay Area sewage spills during the 2012-2013 rainy season.

Read more about Baykeeper’s legal actions to reduce sewage spills.