City Leads East Bay In Water Management Program

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Last week, when rain pounded the East Bay, millions of gallons of partially treated sewage were released into the bay, an environmental issue that a Berkeley program now becoming the norm in cities throughout the area aims to improve.

Although federal and state agencies are calling for improved sewage management in the East Bay, Berkeley's sewage program has been prepared to address the water quality issue for the past three years.

The city's Private Sewer Lateral Program, which began in 2006, requires homeowners to inspect and replace their property's residential sewer lines if any defects are found.

This program will be able to address the requirements outlined in a draft court order issued in July by Environmental Protection Agency and the state of California against East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD).

The draft requires EBMUD to implement programs that address the issue of storm-generated water flows into its sewage treatment system in nine East Bay cities, including Berkeley, said Ben Horenstein, manager of environmental services at EBMUD.

According to Kenneth Emeziem, supervising civil engineer for Berkeley, roughly 3,700 homes under the city's Private Sewer Lateral Program have already had their private sewer lines replaced or certified to be in good condition, which amounts to more than 10 percent of the city's homes.

Because the program calls for replacing old pipes to keep excess ground water from infiltrating the sewer lines, sewer water is then more efficiently routed to water treatment plants, Horenstein said.

"The city is very proactive and concerned about the quality of water going to the bay," Emeziem said.

According to Horenstein, the high levels of rainfall often overwhelm the capabilities of EBMUD's sewage treatment facilities.

"During these very high wet weather flow periods, some of the sewage may not receive full treatment at our main waste water treatment facility," he said.

Horenstein said while the changes necessitated by the court order will have a larger impact on cities like Oakland, Emeryville and Piedmont that do not having existing programs in place, Berkeley may not find the changes as demanding.

"It's likely that, in the case of private owned sewer pipes, cities like Berkeley that have had a program in place for a few years already, are (more) ahead than the cities that don't have a program in place," Horenstein said.


Contact Melody Ng at [email protected]

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