Two years ago, Baykeeper scientists discovered significant amounts of bacteria pollution from raw sewage in Stevens Creek, Calabazas Creek, Guadalupe Slough, and other South Bay waterways. Our sampling revealed E. coli at levels 50 times the legal limit. And the culprits were the cities of Sunnyvale and Mountain View.
Baykeeper suspects one source of the pollution is the cities’ wastewater infrastructure. Both of the cities have antiquated and failing sewage and stormwater systems that are over a century old in some locations and that are spreading pollution into the Bay and surrounding communities.
So Baykeeper’s legal team took action, filing lawsuits against both cities for Clean Water Act violations. Like most polluters, they were surprised to be held accountable. But unlike most Bay Area polluters who learn of their mistakes and want to fix the underlying issues, Sunnyvale and Mountain View instead have wasted the past year to try to get our cases thrown out of court.
In late December, their attempt failed. A federal court ruled that the cities’ arguments were without merit, and Baykeeper’s cases should move forward.
"The cities and towns where we live are responsible for maintaining functioning sewage and stormwater systems, and when these systems fail, dumping pollution and raw sewage into the Bay and our communities, then they have to fix the problem. The courts were right to deny Sunnyvale and Mountain View's requests to dismiss Baykeeper's lawsuits,” said Baykeeper Staff Attorney, Nicole Sasaki.
Now, we hope Sunnyvale and Mountain View will do the right thing. Rather than squander taxpayer dollars on fighting lawsuits, they should spend that money to stop their pollution. They can fix leaky pipes and provide their residents with expected public services, including functional sewage infrastructure, clean water, and healthy creeks.
The cities can use this opportunity to upgrade their old systems and also install Bay-friendly infrastructure that filters pollutants with the added benefit of replenishing groundwater. Similar green upgrades across the country have allowed cities to use stormwater filtration to supplement their water supplies, making them more resilient to climate change. That would be a win all around: for the health of the people and the health of the Bay.
Pictured, above: a stormwater outfall in Sunnyvale