Science

Sewage overflows into San Francisco Bay and city streets during storms

Sewage overflows into San Francisco Bay and city streets during storms

Millions of gallons of storm water mixed with raw sewage made its way into creeks, the bay and city streets during recent heavy rainstorms that overwhelmed dozens of Bay Area sewers and some treatment plants.

Some raw sewage seeped out of manholes or backed up sewer drains, calling into question even the idea of ​​kids splashing in their rainboots.

Don’t jump in puddles. Especially in San Francisco — you want to be careful that there (could be) sewage in that,” said Eileen White, executive officer of the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board, referring to flooded areas when the city’s unique sanitary system that combines Storm water and waste water back up during heavy rain.

It’s too early to know the full impact of the atmospheric rivers that have hit the region recently, because complete records are not yet available. But municipalities are required to report to the state when they discharge untreated wastewater — and some information is emerging, especially about sewage spills during the New Year’s Eve storm, the second-wettest day on record in San Francisco and the wettest for Oakland Since at least 1970. Ongoing storms could cause similar incidents, creating public safety concerns.

Sejal Choksi-Chugh, executive director of advocacy organization San Francisco Baykeeper, said she “highly, highly recommends” that people avoid contact with the water in the bay right now, because untreated sewage contains bacteria and viruses that can cause sickness. Raw sewage can also cause sickness in fish and other wildlife, she said.


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