East Bay Uses Wastewater Treatment Plant to Divert Storm Water

Jan. 20, 2020

California’s East Bay is mitigating an increase in water flows after heavy rains by opening its Port Isabel Wastewater Treatment Plant. 

Sewer treatment managers are in the process of handling a huge increase in water flows after heavy rains in the East Bay of San Francisco. 

"The rain is coming into the sewer pipes of the cities and makes its way to our interceptors," said Eileen White, a wastewater treatment manager for the East Bay Municipal Utility District. "Yesterday at this time when it wasn't raining, our flows were about 50 million gallons per day. In the last hour we've seen the flows go all the way up to 165 million gallons per day." 

Though the wastewater treatment system is designed to clean up water filled with sewage before it is returned to the bay, old, leaky municipal water mains and the pipes leading from homes allow millions of gallons of rainwater to mix in, reported ABC 7 San Francisco.

"We want to keep wastewater in the wastewater system and the separate system in the East Bay for the storm water," White said.

Too much storm water infiltration could likely create overflows and discharge untreated sewer water into the bay.

Although the system can handle up to half a million gallons per day in an emergency, system operators begin to worry when flows near 170 million gallons. On Jan. 16, these flows reached 200 million gallons, reported ABC 7 San Francisco.

East Bay MUD has opened its Port Isabel facility in Richmond to divert and store some of that excess water in the meantime.

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Cristina Tuser