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San Francisco Bay

by San Francisco BayKeeper

According to Baykeeper's research, thousands of gallons of sewage have been spilled in violation of clean water laws over the past five years.

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Untreated sewage, as well as sewage that has undergone partial treatment, contains pathogens and other pollutants that can cause a variety of illnesses in humans that come into contact with contaminated water and can poison our food web and local wildlife. Founded in 1989, San Francisco Baykeeper works to reverse the environmental degradation of the past and promote new strategies and policies to protect the water quality of the San Francisco Bay--which covers more than 1600 square miles and is one of California's most important ecological habitats.
After more than a decade of working to stop sewage spills into the Bay, Baykeeper has launched a Sick of Sewage Initiative to rein in the Bay's sewage spill problem. This initiative tackles both immediate sewage spill incidents and the systemic problem of inadequate sewage infrastructure in Bay Area communities, through investigative water quality monitoring, legal action, advocacy for new laws, and public education. Baykeeper is holding the worst polluters accountable and advocating for a region-wide upgrade to sewer systems in the Bay Area to keep sewage out of our homes, streets, creeks, and the Bay.
For nearly two decades, Baykeeper and its Deltakeeper project have been the premiere watchdog of the water quality of the vast San Francisco Bay/Delta watershed. Over the past ten years, Baykeeper has brought lawsuits against the Cities of Vallejo, Burlingame, and Richmond, as well as the East Bay Municipal Utility District. Three new lawsuits were recently filed in December 2009 to prevent sewage spills to San Francisco Bay from the City of Millbrae, the City of San Carlos, and the West Bay Sanitation District.
In this newest round of the organization's Sick of Sewage campaign, Baykeeper's legal actions are targeting cities with dilapidated sewage collection systems and high rates of upland spills from broken pipes.  According to Baykeeper's research, the cities' own records reveal that thousands of gallons of sewage have spilled in violation of clean water laws over the past five years.
Baykeeper uses the citizen suit provision of the Clean Water Act to hold polluters accountable for illegal sewage spills. "Bay Area cities have been able to pass the buck from one administration to the next by deferring maintenance of old sewage pipes. Baykeeper is determined to protect South Bay beaches and sloughs from sewage contamination," said Baykeeper Executive Director Deb Self. "The release of untreated sewage near Bair Island, Corkscrew Slough and other favorite recreation areas is a public health nuisance that shouldn't be tolerated any longer."
Using the many tools at their disposal--advocacy, water quality monitoring and science, on-the-water patrols, public education and, when necessary, legal action--Baykeeper can compel polluters to stop contaminating our waterways and hold government agencies accountable for safeguarding and restoring the waters that belong to all of us.  Now, Baykeeper is initiating a broad effort to reinvest our resources in the nine counties immediately surrounding the Bay, and as a result they have dramatically increased the ability to respond to pollution impacting the Bay.
Baykeeper is part of the International Waterkeeper Alliance headed by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., which is 157 programs strong, making it one of the world's fastest growing environmental movements. Each Waterkeeper organization enforces the provisions of the 1972 Clean Water Act and other federal and state laws.
Despite the passage of environmental water quality laws, government agencies do not have the resources necessary to protect our national waters by themselves. Therefore, Baykeepers works closely with other agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency, to accomplish mutual goals.

To find out how you can help, call 415-856-0444 or visit

Related Info:
Keeping Our State Parks Open
Pesticides: A Public Problem
Green Travel Comes to the Bay Area with SMART
The Truth About Your Drinking Water
Plastics & the Environment: The Myth of the Chasing Arrows
Lester Brown on environmental change
Jeffrey Smith on the dangers of genetic engineering in our food supply
The Bells of Mindfulness

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