The 2014 collaborative agreement represents a next step in the continued high priority, regional commitment to protecting San Francisco Bay. Every city, resident and business is connected to the East Bay’s sewer infrastructure in some way.
Older, deteriorated sewer pipes lead to a number of environmental challenges for our East Bay communities and for San Francisco Bay, including sewage back-ups and discharge of partially treated sewage to the Bay during heavy rain storms.
While the Bay is significantly cleaner today than it was 30 years ago, new and stricter standards are now in place to assure an ever cleaner and healthier environment.
The challenge of ever cleaner Bay waters can be solved and will take time, ratepayer/taxpayer investment and a joint, regional effort.
Six cities and a wastewater district (Alameda, Albany, Berkeley, Emeryville, Oakland, Piedmont and Stege Sanitary District) in the East Bay own, operate and maintain their wastewater collection systems (sewer pipes). These systems are each connected to EBMUD’s wastewater treatment system. The EBMUD treatment system was designed completely to treat dry weather flows, but during very heavy storms, rainwater can leak into sewer pipes, causing occasional releases of partially treated sewage into the Bay. Like much of the region’s infrastructure, many of the East Bay’s sewer pipes were built decades ago. Local sewer pipes were not intended to collect storm water, yet they do. During heavy storms, rain as storm water can enter these underground pipes through cracks. This is called “infiltration and inflow” and is a common occurrence in sewer collection systems everywhere. In the late 1980s, EBMUD began building large storage systems, called wet-weather facilities, to prevent heavy storms from causing raw sewage overflows into the Bay. At the same time, the cities and Stege Sanitary District repaired leaky sewer pipes that reduced the amount of storm water entering the system. Oakland has spent over $300 million since 1980s to improve its collections system and reduce flows. These collaborative efforts were successful in drastically reducing discharges of raw sewage to the Bay. In 2009, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) filed federal complaints against each of the cities and districts. It prohibited EBMUD’s wet-weather facilities from discharging partially treated sewage into San Francisco Bay. The cities and Stege Sanitary District were told to stop contributing to those discharges through excess flow in their sewer pipes. These new regulations have meant that these wet weather facilities are no longer able to meet the tougher standards for wastewater treatment as more action is needed to improve water quality in the Bay. Subsequent negotiations among the cities and districts, state and federal regulators and local environmental groups have resulted in a consent decree agreed to by all parties in June 2014. This settlement gives the cities and districts until 2036 to repair and replace sewer lines, reduce the amount of inflow and infiltration and reduce discharges into San Francisco Bay during heavy storms.
- Improve and protect water quality in the San Francisco Bay by improving the aging infrastructure of the sewer system in East Bay cities
- Collaborate on long-term improvements and shared costs throughout the East Bay region and share the positive results
The goals of the Consent Decree are to eliminate discharges from EBMUD wet-weather facilities and reduce sewer overflows from the collection system.
These two goals are planned to be achieved by:
- Rehabilitating both the aging public and private sewer pipes
- Disconnecting storm water connections to the sewer system wherever found
- Improving and increasing system cleaning and inspection activities
- City of Oakland
- City of Alameda
- City of Albany
- City of Berkeley
- City of Emeryville
- City of Piedmont
- Stege Sanitary District
- The Consent Decree was expected to take effect in late fall 2014 and is a 22-year agreement.
- The combined costs for the program over 22 years is estimated to be $300 million.