Since 1951, water from household or workplace drains in the East Bay has made its way to EBMUD's wastewater treatment plant at the base of the Bay Bridge in West Oakland. But for years, too much stormwater has led to discharges of partially treated sewage into the Bay. The East Bay Regional Private Sewer Lateral Program is in place to help fix old, cracked sanitary sewer pipes which need repair to prevent the infiltration of rainwater, which can overwhelm wastewater treatment facilities and lead to the release of partially treated wastewater into the Bay.
Our commitment to protecting the bay
Like our water pipes, much of the region's sewer infrastructure — including city sewer pipes under the street and private sewer laterals from homes and buildings — was built decades ago. During and after heavy storms, rain enters underground sewer pipes through cracks, increases the volume of water and eventually overflows the system. This is called "infiltration and inflow" and is a common occurrence in cities with older infrastructure across the country.
Our local sewer pipes were designed to collect wastewater from homes and businesses. They were not intended to collect stormwater, yet they do because of the numerous defects in both the sewers and private sewer laterals that connect them. Starting in 1988, EBMUD built three wet weather facilities along the shoreline to address the problem of infiltration and inflow. Since then, the region's sewer infrastructure has further deteriorated, environmental policy priorities have changed and the need for additional action has become more urgent.
In July 2014, EBMUD, the cities of Alameda, Albany, Berkeley, Emeryville, Oakland and Piedmont and Stege Sanitary District agreed to a consent decree with the United States Environmental Protection Agency, state and regional water boards, and two community organizations that gives the cities and districts until 2036 to repair and replace sewer lines, reduce the amount of infiltration and inflow and reduce discharges of partially treated sewage into San Francisco Bay during heavy storms.
As part of the consent decree, EBMUD will
- continue to enforce its regional private sewer lateral ordinance.
- work with local communities in our region to find and eliminate the largest sources of stormwater entering the sewer system.
- Upgrade segments of its 37 miles of large wastewater pipelines (interceptors).
The requirements of the private sewer lateral program affect property owners in the EBMUD wastewater service area if they buy or sell a property, build or remodel, or increase the size of their water meter. Today, completely replacing a leaky private sewer lateral can cost a property owner, on average, $5,000.
Under the 22-year consent decree EBMUD's commitments will cost approximately $5 million per year. The other cities and sanitary district also have requirements to repair their sewer lines and remove sources of infiltration and inflow from their sewer systems.
Every resident and business in our service area is connected to the East Bay's sewer infrastructure. Over decades, this deteriorating system has contributed to Bay pollution. Though it will take time, community investment and a regional effort to implement the consent decree, EBMUD and its partners continue to be committed to a cleaner Bay.