Biden Witnesses Bay Area Storm Damage: January’s Massive Bay Sewage Spills May Have Ended, but Root Causes Not Addressed

Jan 19, 2023

Bay Area Residents and Wildlife Remain at Risk

President Biden is visiting the South Bay today with Governor Newsom to tour damage from recent storms.  January’s atmospheric river events dumped upwards of 22 million gallons of sewage into San Francisco Bay. Much of the Bay Area’s stormwater and wastewater infrastructure are decades old. During the recent storms, streets flooded because the Bay Area’s stormwater pipes are too small to handle the levels of rain that persisted, and the wastewater pipes that should have been closed to rainwater failed allowing rainwater to enter cracks in the sewage pipes and overwhelm treatment plants.

Baykeeper executive director Sejal Choksi-Chugh issued the following statement:

"President Biden is in the Bay Area to witness damage from January’s storms, but it’s what he can’t see underground that poses the most persistent threat to Bay Area residents—the region’s failing sewage and stormwater systems.=

"These extreme storms have demonstrated that our sewage treatment systems and stormwater pipes are out of date. These large storms are now the new normal, and we must prepare for them as a region. We need the state and federal government to be investing in our local infrastructure with new designs based on updated storm models that reflect the next century's expected climate-fueled storms and rising sea levels.

"The neighborhoods that are most susceptible to flooding are those closest to the bay shore where the sewage is discharged—frequently overburdened communities, which already face a disproportionate level of environmental pollution. The industrial chemicals and pharmaceuticals in wastewater and stormwater, which are not filtered out, can also cause generational reproductive and growth impairments in fish and wildlife.

"It's not good for the Bay ecosystem or for public health to have untreated wastewater or polluted stormwater on our streets or in the Bay. If we don't look forward in a comprehensive, coordinated way, we're just going to get caught like this every single time there's a big storm."


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