Over 13 million gallons of raw sewage is entering the streams and lakes of San Francisco Bay. Treatment plants in this area had an alarming 2,048 separate spills in the year 2008. This is a problem that has been going on for decades.
The pollution started in the SF Bay during the Gold Rush boom of the late 1800s; this was when ship docks were made by filling in marshland. This continued with the further dumping of debris from the 1906 earthquake and the fire that followed. The problem goes on with the continuing growth of Bay area.
When it rains in San Francisco the pipes that carry raw sewage to the sewage treatment facilities are filled with storm water—wastewater and storm water go into the same system. The flow then exceeds the capacity of the storage and treatment ponds so there is overflow of raw sewage that run into the San Francisco Bay.
The municipal districts in this area have been working on projects to detect and repair the problems with the infiltration system, yet it is not a simple solution. There are pipes that connect from private homes to main sewer systems resulting in a problem with the individual property owner’s obligation to help. So who pays for these needed upgrades; the homeowner, or the municipalities? There is a great deal of money involved with this problem and no one wants to take responsibility; in the mean time our environment is being devastated.
Solution Suggested by Faculty Evaluator: Instead of channeling fresh rainwater into pipes and sending it away, we should be able to use it. A suggestion by Dr. Elaine Wellin, a professor at Sonoma State, is to put that rainwater into our drinking water aquifers. This can be done by letting the rainwater be absorbed by the ground. Modified bricks with holes in them could replace the asphalt on the streets, this way the rainwater could be absorbed by the ground, yet cars could still be driven on the bricks. This would also relieve some of the stress on the pipes used for sewage; we would not need to pipe all this water away. This rainwater is usable. Dr. Wellin says that the use of bricks in this manner is already being used successfully in some parks. This is a possible solution that should be looked into.
Title: Why Are Treatment Plants Dumping Sewage in the San Francisco Bay?
Source: Sierra Club May 2009
URL: http://www.sfbay.sierra club.org/yodeler/html/2009/05/conservation10.htm
Author: Elena Belsky
Student Researcher: Marylou German
Faculty Evaluator: Elaine Wellin Ph.D.
Sonoma State University: Sociology of Media, Fall 2009
Instructor: Peter Phillips, #10