Breaking: US EPA and State of California Join Our Fight to Hold SFPUC Accountable

Water flowing out of sluice gates on Mission Creek in San Francisco

In a remarkable development yesterday, the United States and State of California joined Baykeeper in taking legal action against San Francisco for discharging millions of gallons of raw sewage directly into the Bay.

After extensive investigations and public records reviews, Baykeeper uncovered that the city’s sewage and stormwater system had violated the Clean Water Act hundreds of times over the last five years. The city’s own records indicate that the system is often overwhelmed during heavy rains, discharging over a billion gallons of untreated mixed sewage and polluted urban runoff into the Bay every year. These discharges contain feces, bacteria, viruses, chemicals, and trash. In a wet year, the volume of polluted discharges can exceed 2 billion gallons.

Sewage and stormwater pollution is, by volume, the single greatest source of pollution in the Bay. San Francisco is likely the greatest source of that sewage pollution. And, that pollution includes the nitrogen and phosphorous pollutants that cause fish-killing algae blooms.

In early March, Baykeeper notified San Francisco and its Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) that we would file a lawsuit to hold them accountable for polluting the Bay. Now, the EPA and California have done the same—suing San Francisco for violating the Clean Water Act over the same conduct. And they too are pressuring San Francisco and SFPUC to substantially upgrade its stormwater and sewage system. We’ll be joining forces with the feds and the state as the lawsuit advances.

“When the news broke about Baykeeper’s planned legal action a couple of months ago, San Francisco publicly responded that they would fight us in court,” said Baykeeper executive director Sejal Choksi-Chugh. “So now it’s big news that federal and state governments are joining our effort to hold the city accountable for its sewage pollution. Dumping millions of gallons of untreated sewage into Mission Creek and the Bay is illegal and unacceptable. We look forward to working together to find solutions to San Francisco’s massive pollution problem so that people around the Bay have a cleaner, safer Bay Area to call home.” Help us hold San Francisco accountable and stop sewage pollution in San Francisco Bay.

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Photo: SFPUC via Public Records Act