Heavy Rains Taxing Bay Area Wastewater Treatment Plants

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — The record-setting year of rain in the Bay Area is making for an equally extreme year for sanitary sewer overflows.

As a result, millions of gallons of partially treated wastewater have run off into San Francisco Bay and its tributaries.

Our system is designed to treat wastewater from homes and businesses, not storm water runoff, said East Bay MUD spokesperson Jenesse Miller. But it has been a really wet winter and has overwhelmed our systems.

East Bay MUD has spilled 5 million gallons into the Bay. A plant in Richmond is responsible for more than nine million.

Environmental activist group San Francisco Baykeeper says there have been 62 percent more sanitary sewer overflows this rainy season than last, making for an almost 2,000 percent increase the gallons of sewer water running off into our waterways and the accompanying health concerns.

“People who come into contact with this may have upper respiratory infections, skin infections, things like that,” said Erica Maharg with SF Baykeeper

Maharg says it could even be fatal if the concentration of raw sewage is high enough.

Luckily, East Bay MUD says the overflows are mostly storm water, diluting the sewage when it creeps into cracked or leaky lines. They’ve got miles of pipe to examine, but say fixing the problem is one of their priorities.

“We are budgeted over $5 million this year and five every year until 2036 to fix this problem,” said Miller.

More from Emily Turner
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