Burlingame may have to pay for alleged sewage spills

Burlingame property owners may ultimately be pinned with a bill for a likely settlement that could reach into the millions of dollars for the city’s alleged spilling of millions of gallons of sewage into San Francisco Bay.

Baykeeper, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that aims to protect the Bay, claims Burlingame’s aging sewer system has caused too much sewage to spew into the Bay since 2002. The organization claimed in its October lawsuit that the city neglected to fix its aging sewer system in a timely fashion.

City Manager Jim Nantellagreed with Baykeeper attorney Daniel Cooper’s assessment that, “It’s no longer a question of whether [the city] will pay — it’s a question of when and how much.” Cooper added that fixing the sewer systems should cost Burlingame “tens of millions of dollars at least.”

The money for the settlement will likely come out of the pockets of city residents who are billed for sewage services, Nantell said.

“Hopefully we can reach an agreement that minimizes the impact on [property owners],” Nantell said.

Neither side would discuss settlement figures because negotiations are ongoing. Nantell said he is optimistic that a settlement will be reached within the next few months. If a settlement is reached, Baykeeper would assign the funds to a third-party organization for local environmental restorations projects, Cooper said.

The environmental watchdog documented 198 spills by Burlingame into the Bay since 2002. The group claims millions of gallons of sewage flowed into the Bay. Nantell said the estimated number of spills was likely accurate, although he said it was deceiving. The “vast majority” of those spills only caused about a half-gallon to a gallon of sewage to go into the Bay, he said.

For each day with a spill, Burlingame faces up to a $27,500 or $32,500 fine under the federal Clean Water Act, said Ken Greenberg, chief of the federal EPA’s Clean Water Act Compliance Office. Depending on negotiations, the city could face up to $5.445 million to $6.435 million in penalties.

The city has already spent $29 million to replace 20 miles of its aging pipeline during the last six years, Public Works Director Syed Murtuza said in late October. The rest of the 100 miles of infrastructure will be replaced as the city spends $3.7 million annually during the next 20 years, he had said.

But that 20-year timeframe is not fast enough, said Baykeeper Executive Director Deb Self. Her group wants the city to push forward and spend money to fix the system faster.

mrosenberg@examiner.com

Bay Area NewsLocalPeninsula

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Chase Center and the Golden State Warriors hosted a media Welcome Back conference to discuss the safety protocols and amenities when fans return for a basketball game on April 23rd at Chase Center on April 13, 2021 in San Francisco, California. (Photography by Chris Victorio | Special to the S.F. Examiner).
Golden State Warriors ready to welcome fans back to Chase Center

COVID-19 tests, app-based food ordering among new safety protocols announced this week

People came out in numbers to memorialize George Floyd, who was fatally shot by police, outside San Francisco City Hall on June 9, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SFPD prepares for possible protests as Chauvin trial continues

Police to schedule community meetings, provide officers with crowd control training

Mayor London Breed said Tuesday that with other counties moving ahead with expanding vaccine eligibility “we want San Franciscans to have the same opportunity.” (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Everyone in SF ages 16 and up is now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine

San Francisco expanded eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday to everyone ages… Continue reading

San Francisco Park Rangers have seen their budget and staffing levels increase significantly since 2014. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Citations for being in SF’s public parks after midnight soar

Data shows disproportionate impact on Black residents

Central City SRO Collective tenant leader Reggie Reed, left, and Eddie Ahn, executive director of Brightline Defense, were among those distributing environmental awareness posters throughout the Tenderloin, Mid-Market and South of Market neighborhoods. (Courtesy Central City SRO Collaborative)
Environmental dangers are connected to racism

Let’s attack problems with better policies, greater awareness

Most Read