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EPA says San Francisco dumped billions of gallons of wastewater into ocean

May 3

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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and multiple California state agencies have filed a lawsuit against the city of San Francisco, accusing the city of allowing billions of gallons of untreated sewage to flow into the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay. The lawsuit, initiated by the EPA, alleges that the city has permitted massive amounts of untreated water and sewage to be discharged into the ocean since 2016, with an annual average of 1.8 billion gallons of combined sewage, wastewater and stormwater released.

According to the EPA, the situation has worsened, with more than 4 billion gallons of contaminated water discharged during the rainy season between October 2022 and March 2023, endangering both beachgoers and ocean life.

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In response, federal authorities are seeking hefty penalties amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars, and they are pushing for court orders to compel the city to change its practices. The lawsuit also accuses San Francisco of neglecting its water and sewer systems and failing to inform residents about sewage problems.

The chair of the regional water board expressed concern over San Francisco’s aging wastewater infrastructure, saying that it has jeopardized public safety for too long. According to the EPA, the last significant improvements to the sewage system were made more than 25 years ago, contributing to the current problem.

An attorney representing the environmental group SF Baykeeper attributed part of the issue to decaying infrastructure within the city’s treatment systems. The attorney said the decay results in significant amounts of sewage, garbage and hazardous materials to entering waterways.

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission argued that the lawsuit is unfair, highlighting plans to address water quality concerns over the next 15 years at a cost of $1 billion. The commission said it can’t afford the $10 billion required to treat waste discharges from every storm.

A spokesperson for the utility company said that San Francisco is committed to the environment, and that the lawsuit is not helpful to its efforts.

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[JACK AYLMER]

THE FEDS ARE SUING THE CITY OF SAN FRANCISCO FOR REPORTEDLY DUMPING BILLIONS OF GALLONS OF SEWAGE INTO THE OCEAN.

THE EPA AND MULTIPLE CALIFORNIA STATE AGENCIES ARE SUING THE CITY, ALLEGING IT ALLOWED MASSIVE AMOUNTS OF UNTREATED WATER AND SEWAGE TO BE DUMPED INTO THE PACIFIC AND SAN FRANCISCO BAY.

THE LAWSUIT CLAIMS IT HAS BEEN GOING ON SINCE 2016– WITH AN AVERAGE OF ONE-POINT-EIGHT BILLION GALLONS OF COMBINED SEWAGE, WASTEWATER AND STORMWATER RELEASED ANNUALLY. 

AND THE E-P-A CLAIMS IT’S GETTING WORSE. 

SAYING MORE THAN FOUR BILLION GALLONS OF CONTAMINATED WATER WAS FLUSHED INTO THE OCEAN FROM OCTOBER 2022 TO MARCH OF 2023.

THE AGENCY CLAIMS THE POLLUTION HAS ENDANGERED BEACHGOERS AND OCEAN LIFE FOR YEARS.

NOW THE FEDS WANT TO IMPOSE HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS IN PENALTIES AND IS SEEKING COURT ORDERS TO FORCE THE CITY TO CHANGE ITS PRACTICES.

THE SUIT ALSO ACCUSES THE CITY OF LETTING ITS WATER AND SEWER SYSTEMS DETERIORATE AND NOT TELLING RESIDENTS ABOUT THE SEWAGE PROBLEMS. 

THE CHAIR OF THE REGIONAL WATER BOARD SAID: “SAN FRANCISCO’S AGING WASTEWATER SYSTEM HAS EXPOSED THE PUBLIC TO RISKS FOR TOO LONG.”

THE E-P-A SAYS THE LAST OVERALL IMPROVEMENTS TO THE SEWAGE SYSTEM WERE MADE MORE THAN 25 YEARS AGO.

AN ATTORNEY FOR THE ENVIRONMENTAL GROUP S-F BAYKEEPER SAYS THAT’S PART OF THE PROBLEM.

CLAIMING DECAYING INFRASTRUCTURE IN THE CITY’S TREATMENT SYSTEM ARE CAUSING IMMENSE AMOUNTS OF SEWAGE, GARBAGE AND HAZARDOUS MATERIAL INTO WATERWAYS. 

THE SAN FRANCISCO PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMISSION DEFENDED THE CITY’S ENVIRONMENTAL EFFORTS.

CALLING THE LAWSUIT UNFAIR. 

AND OUTLINING PLANS TO ADDRESS WATER QUALITY ISSUES OVER THE NEXT 15 YEARS A COST OF ONE-BILLION DOLLARS.

THE COMMISSION ARGUES IT CAN NOT AFFORD THE 10 BILLION DOLLARS IT WOULD COST TO TREAT WASTE DISCHARGES FROM EVERY STORM. 

A SPOKESPERSON FOR THE UTILITY COMPANY CLAIMED THE “CITY IS AN ENVIRONMENTAL LEADER WHEN IT COMES TO KEEPING POLLUTANTS OUT OF THE BAY” AND “SUING US DOESN’T HELP.

JACK AYLMER– STRAIGHT ARROW NEWS.