Municipalities ordered to protect San Francisco Bay from sewage discharge

May 2011, Vol. 66 No. 5

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Justice Department, California Water Boards and San Francisco Baykeeper have announced a stipulated order that will settle a Clean Water Act enforcement action against seven municipalities in the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD).

The settlement is part of a broader enforcement strategy to address sewage overflows to the San Francisco Bay, especially during rain events. During this most recent rainy season, which began in October 2010, nearly 125 million gallons of untreated or partially treated sewage from EBMUD's wet weather facilities overflowed into the San Francisco Bay during wet weather.

As part of the order, Oakland, Emeryville, Piedmont, Berkeley, Alameda, Albany, and the Stege Sanitary District (which serves Kensington, El Cerrito and the Richmond Annex section of Richmond) will make substantial improvements to their wastewater collection systems to reduce sewage spills to the Bay. These defendants are collectively referred to as ‘satellite communities' in the stipulated order.

As part of the settlement, the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board will help to oversee the satellite communities' compliance with the stipulated order.

The Justice Department, California Water Boards, Baykeeper, and the Satellite Communities collaborated in settlement negotiations aimed at developing initial measures that would complement the work required by a 2009 EBMUD Stipulated Order. As with the EBMUD Stipulated Order, the Satellite Communities stipulated order will provide initial relief needed to reduce the ongoing violations and assist in developing a final remedy.

In addition, each of the Satellites have specific requirements based on an inspection of each collection system previously conducted by EPA and input from Baykeeper. As in all federal Clean Water Act enforcement actions, the defendants in this case could face penalties as part of the future settlement.