Saturday, February 21, 2009

Sewage Leaks Into San Francisco Bay

Photo courtesty of

The San Francisco Bay – Sausalito area has a worldwide reputation of being one of the most beautiful areas in the world. Tourists flock there to enjoy the huge variety of water sports, fishing boat charters, whale watching, yacht racing, and all manner of outdoor recreation. It is rumoured that Otis Redding wrote the first line of his famous song “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay” while in Sausalito.

Photo via Blumpy

However, since Wednesday, February 18, 2009, there might be a bit of a pall cast over the water activities. Contractors toiled all day digging a pit next to a ruptured steel pipeline at a sewage treatment plant near the Sausalito shoreline. Despite their efforts, about 500,000 galloons of untreated and/or partially treated sewage made its way into the San Francisco Bay.

The leak discovered early Tuesday afternoon (Feb. 17/08) is the latest in a long string of spills that have polluted the Bay’s water and soiled the shoreline of southern Marin County.

One of the reasons there has been quite a lengthy history of continued spillage could be things like what is happening with the fix they are working on right now. While the temporary fix had significantly reduced the flow, the leak was not fully stopped; so, workers rigged hoses to divert the waste back into the plant.

"Virtually all of the leakage has been stopped," said Bob Simmons, general manager of the sanitary district. "It's now leaking at less than a gallon per minute. What we ended up doing here is not a fully engineered repair. It's a temporary fix."

The Sausalito-Marin County treatment plant serves about 18,000 customers in Tamalpais Valley, Marin City, Sausalito, the Marin Headlands and Fort Baker. Simmons said the spilled sewage had been partially treated with 60 percent of the solids removed.

I’m not sure that would reassure me. I know it wouldn’t convince me to go back in the water.

Simmons blames corrosion of the pipe along with a possible defect in the 24” diameter steel pipe. The concrete-coated pipe is about 23 years old. "This type of pipe should last 50 years," he said. "We think the majority of the pipe is in good shape."

Meanwhile, signs have been posted along the southern Marin County shoreline warning people of the danger and warning them not to swim or fish.

The local Regional Water Quality Control Board is investigating the incident and Simmons said he expects an enforcement action.

"A fine is inevitable," Simmons said. "It'll probably be hundreds of thousands of dollars. ... We created a hazard and some environmental harm."

He added: "I think fines help get the bad apples moving, but I wouldn't consider us as one of them."

Watch the following video (approx. 1 min.) and decide for yourself if they are one of the bad apples or not.

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