Historic CWA settlement to prevent millions of gallons of sewage discharges into SF Bay

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SAN FRANCISCO, CA, July 28, 2014 -- Today, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a Clean Water Act (CWA) settlement requiring the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) and seven East Bay communities to conduct extensive system repairs aimed at eliminating millions of gallons of sewage discharges into the San Francisco Bay.

Under the agreement, EBMUD and the communities will assess and upgrade their 1,500-mile-long sewer system infrastructure over a 21-year period. The work is expected to cost approximately $1.5 billion. The entities will pay civil penalties of $1.5 million for past sewage discharges that violated federal environmental law. The settlement is the result of a CWA enforcement action brought by the EPA, U.S. Department of Justice, State Water Resources Control Board, San Francisco Bay Regional Water Board, San Francisco Baykeeper, and Our Children’s Earth Foundation.

Since 2009, the EPA, state and local regulators and environmental groups have worked to reduce sewage discharges from East Bay communities. During that period, interim actions required EBMUD and the East Bay communities to improve their sewer maintenance practices and gather information to identify priorities for investment.

The San Francisco Bay is under threat from many sources of pollution, including crumbling wastewater infrastructure that allows sewage to escape from the system. During rainstorms, in particular, older sewer systems can be overwhelmed, releasing rivers of sewage before fully treated. In addition to polluting waterways, raw and partially treated sewage can spread disease-causing organisms, metals and nutrients that threaten public health. Sewage can also deplete oxygen in the bay, threatening fish, seals and other wildlife.

The seven East Bay communities in the EBMUD settlement are the cities of Alameda, Albany, Berkeley, Emeryville, Oakland, and Piedmont, as well as the Stege Sanitary District (serving El Cerrito, Kensington and a portion of Richmond). As part of the agreement, EBMUD and the seven communities will:

  • Repair and rehabilitate old and cracked sewer pipes
  • Regularly clean and inspect sewer pipes to prevent overflows of raw sewage
  • Identify and eliminate illegal sewer connections
  • Continue to enforce private sewer lateral ordinances
  • Ensure proactive renewal of existing sanitary sewer infrastructure

EBMUD will also immediately begin work to offset the environmental harm caused by the sewage discharges, which are expected to continue until these sewer upgrades are completed, by capturing and treating urban runoff and contaminated water that currently flows to the Bay untreated during dry weather. The proposed settlement is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.

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