Jan 12, 2023 - News

Storms lead to sewage in San Francisco Bay

tow truck driver retrieving car

A tow truck driver retrieves a disabled vehicle stuck in flooded waters under the 280/101 freeway interchange in SF on Dec. 31, 2022. Photo: Karl Mondon/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images

The recent bevy of harsh storms has forced millions of gallons of sewage into the San Francisco Bay and its associated waterways, the San Francisco Examiner reports.

What's happening: More than 3 million gallons of sewage have made their way into creeks, roadways, neighborhoods and the bay since Dec. 31, according to an analysis by the Examiner of wastewater data from the California Office of Emergency Services.

  • Yes, but: That number is likely higher because several water managers in the Bay Area have not reported the number of gallons spilled in their areas.

Why it matters: The excessive spillage is indicative of a breakdown of the aging sewage system, Sejal Choksi-Chugh — executive director of the environmental group Baykeeper — told the Examiner.

By the numbers: There were 83 sewage spills in the Bay Area reported on Dec. 31, according to the analysis.

  • Jan. 4 and Jan. 9 were also big days for spills, accounting for nine and 19, respectively.

Zoom in: The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission's Adopt-a-Drain program calls on residents to help its crews keep up with clearing the city's 25,000 storm drains.

  • Still, the city's stormwater system is prone to flooding. And since San Francisco's sewer system combines raw sewage and stormwater runoff, any backups in the system could lead to exposure to feces on the streets.

What to watch: Environmental groups are pushing for reinvestment in wastewater infrastructure at both the statewide and city levels. In SF, however, "it would be a monumental task" to overhaul San Francisco's system due to the cost and potential disruptions to residents, SF Gate reports.


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