Feb 11, 2020

Raw Sewage in California Creeks Prompts Lawsuit

Raw sewage in California's creeks has prompted lawsuits against Sunnyvale and Mountain View. 

sewage treatment

A Bay Area environmental group sued California’s Sunnyvale and Mountain View cities for violation of the Clean Water Act.

According to the Mercury News, the cities discharged raw sewage and polluted storm water into creeks.

This sent bacteria pollution to levels more than 50 times the legal limits.

The group, San Francisco Baykeeper, collected samples that revealed dangerous levels of E. coli, fecal coliform and other pollutants in Stevens Creek, Calabazas Creek, Sunnyvale East Channel and Guadalupe Slough. All of these empty into San Francisco Bay, reported the Mercury News.

The suits allege that aging clay sewer pipes throughout the two cities are leaking untreated sewage into storm drain systems. 

“Whenever anybody is kayaking or swimming or paddle boarding in the water they have exposure to it,” said Sejal Choksi-Chugh, executive director of Baykeeper. “That can cause illness. It also affects the fish and the birds. This was one of the reasons that the Clean Water Act was passed in the first place.”

The samples along the creeks were collected between Nov. 2017 and Feb.  2019.

The high levels of E. coli and other bacteria that Baykeeper found are likely from untreated human waste, which is flowing daily from old clay sewer pipes, according to the lawsuit. Another source of possible contamination is runoff from streets and other property.

The pollution dates back at least until 2014, reported Baykeeper.

“The City of Sunnyvale takes water quality protection very seriously and is in full compliance with our state-issued storm water and sanitary sewer permits,” said Jennifer Garnett, a Sunnyvale spokeswoman. “We’re reviewing Baykeeper’s complaint, and have met and will continue to meet with them to discuss their concerns.”

Mountain View had a similar response.

“The City of Mountain View is committed to the protection of the public’s health, safety and welfare and the safe condition of local creeks,” said Mountain View spokeswoman Shonda Ranson. “The City is carefully reviewing Baykeeper’s allegations and evaluating next steps with the goal of a timely and appropriate resolution.”

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