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Monday, March 21, 2011

Emeryville Is Named In EPA Lawsuit

Emeryville Receives Stipulated Order From EPA: 'Clean Up Your Act'

Amid the over heated talk emanating from City Hall about how green Emeryville is, comes this gem: Emeryville is responsible for raw sewage flowing into the San Francisco Bay.  The following is a re-print from Stormwater, the surface water journal for professional engineers (the photos are added by the Tattler):

March 15, 2011

Bay Area Municipalities Ordered to Protect San Francisco Bay from Sewage Discharges

SAN FRANCISCO– The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Justice Department, California Water Boards and San Francisco Baykeeper today lodged 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.

Among other things, the seven municipalities listed as defendants in the order have cooperatively agreed to update aging infrastructure and collection systems that have been major contributors to the overflows.

“This is great news for San Francisco Bay,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “Sewer overflows are an egregious problem, and the changes these cities are making will help protect our waters. EPA's goal is to have zero discharge of raw or improperly treated sewage into the Bay."

Raw sewage contains pathogens that threaten public health, leading to beach closures and public advisories against fishing and swimming. This problem particularly affects older urban areas, where minority and low-income communities are often concentrated. Keeping raw sewage and contaminated stormwater out of the waters of the United States is one of EPA’s National Enforcement Initiatives for 2011 to 2013.

Today’s settlement is the latest in a series of Clean Water Act settlements that will reduce the discharge of raw sewage and contaminated stormwater into United States’ bays, rivers, streams and lakes. Other U.S. cities that have made similar improvements following a federal order include: Los Angeles, San Diego, Honolulu, Cincinnati, Washington D.C., and more than 40 more. The initiative will focus on reducing discharges from sewer overflows by obtaining cities’ commitments to implement timely, affordable solutions to these problems, including the increased use of green infrastructure and other innovative approaches.

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.

After filing an initial administrative order, EPA referred this action to the Justice Department in December 2009. Following this referral, the United States filed suit against the satellite communities. The San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board and the State Water Resources Control Board are also participating in the litigation and the settlement.

"The San Francisco Bay is a national treasure which will be protected through the implementation of the commitments made in this agreement," said Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. "The settlement will also result in a healthier environment for the communities that surround the Bay by improving the infrastructure and operation of the municipal sewage systems."

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. "This settlement is a significant step in ensuring coordinated and proper investments by the east bay communities in their sewer infrastructure,” said Bruce Wolfe, Executive Officer of the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board. “This will result in healthier creeks and a cleaner Bay."

San Francisco Baykeeper intervened as a plaintiff in this action, and is a party to this stipulated order. "The plans we have agreed to here will set in motion significant projects that will create green jobs and result in a cleaner Bay,” said Jason Flanders of San Francisco Baykeeper. “We look forward to working with EPA and the Waterboards to ensure that these infrastructure improvements occur expeditiously."

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.

Source: US EPA 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.


  1. Is there nothing you won't spin?

    This issue is due entirely to the fact that we live in an older city. When older cities were built, they were built with without separate stormwater and sewer systems. Therefore, when it rains heavily, the stormwater goes into the sewer and sometimes it overflows and raw sewage flows into the bay or ocean or river. Almost every older city has this problem. Yes, it is a problem that should be fixed, and some cities have done this already, but it is also a problem the is HUGELY expensive to fix. Redevelopment us usually a good source of funds for infrastructure, but we might not have that luxury if the legislature takes it away.

    It should be noted that this order involves EVERY SINGLE city and special district which provides sewer service in EBMUD's wasterwater service area, which streches from Richmond to Oakland. The article failed to mention that and so did Brian because it wouldn't have allowed him to spin the article for his own purposes. In this respect, our city is no less green than any of our neighboring East Bay Cities, including Berkeley, Oakland, Albany, Peidmont...

  2. The real problem is the excess inflow to the sanitary sewer system from groundwater when it rains. Hence the sewer lateral ordinances in many cities. However, it's only at point-of-sale, not system-wide. They need an incentive to replace sewer laterals for folks who are not transferring, like 70% reimbursement the first year, 50% the next, 30% the third year, or an outright grant. Otherwise they need huge holding tanks, like the one under the Great Highway, or a much larger treatment plant.

  3. The first commenter nicely illustrates one of the two competing models of patriotism: the 'see no evil' model. In this model, patriotism is seen as blind allegiance; flaws are to be hidden and criticism is to be stifled. Authoritarian triumphalism is the order of the day.

    In the other model, the sort of 'see evil and try to correct it' model, patriotism involves love of the collectivist political entity so much that flaws are to be brought out into the open so that they may be fixed and the political entity strengthened. It is a model that places inherent trust in open debate and even posits that very debate is part and parcel of the entity.

  4. The first commenter doesn't know what he's talking about. Every city in the East Bay is built with separate storm water and sewer systems. The storm water drains directly to the Bay taking with it the toxins from the street including oil. The second commenter is correct: ground water rises during the winter and infiltrates faulty old sewer laterals that go from houses and businesses to the sewer mains in the street. That is how the water treatment plant gets overwhelmed and releases raw sewage into the Bay. The first guy is talking out of his ass. Only in San Francisco is the storm water purposefully fed into the sewer system.

  5. I love the first poster's tortured logic. The Redevelopment Agency has had 40 years to repair the sewer laterals. Rather than spend money to protect the Bay from raw sewage, the Redevelopment Agency has prioritized augmenting Rich Robbins' already impressive fortune.

  6. I wish that we on 63rd Street, where work is still being done, were alerted to the sewer work. We received no notice and no explanation. I asked for info on our block's yahoo group and no one knew what was happening.
    One neighbor said water was leaking out of the pipes, another said water was leaking into the pipes.
    What I do know is that there are still huge holes in 63rd St. with trucks and large pipes blocking needed parking space. Funny but all of these items seem to have been abandoned on the street. I haven't seen a worker out there in about 10 days (as of 3/22/11).

  7. Anon, I'm on 62nd and did get some notice a while back. Pretty open-ended, but at least it was something.