Notification part of new sewer plan

Burlingame is implementing a first-of-its-kind sewer plan that will improve the reporting of sewage spills and emergency response to them as the city heads into its potential flood season.

Part of the plan is already in effect, said Public Works Director Syed Murtuza. It includes a new aspect that requires the city to report online to the public all sewage spills, as opposed to only having to report events that caused at least 1,000 gallons of sewage overflow, as in the past. The public report will include the location and cause of the spill, as well as how quickly it was responded to.

It also setsforth a formal emergency response plan. Public Works staff will be on call at all times to respond to a sewage overflow. Response teams will remove blockages in the underground pipes and perform any necessary cleanup.

“Now if you have a drop of sewage coming out of the lines, you have to report it,” Murtuza said.

The plan will become particularly important now that the city is approaching the rainy season, which is the biggest cause of sewage overflows, Murtuza said. Overflow sewage can cause harmful bacteria to reach nearby waterways such as the San Francisco Bay.

Mayor Terry Nagel drove by a lane on El Camino Real in Burlingame that was closed because of flooding on Friday. The sewer system can be affected by the flood control system if flood control is not fixed, she said.

Preventing “sewage overflows is very important for two reasons,” Nagel said. “We don’t want to contaminate the Bay, and also the government is getting much stricter about fining cities if they catch you spilling even a gallon of sewage.”

The plan also requires restaurants to install grease traps, and for the city to locate problem areas, including tree roots that have grown into pipes, and perform maintenance on them.

In 2006 the state mandated each wastewater agency to adopt a sanitary sewer management plan by Nov. 2.

The mandate requires a plan to prevent sewage overflows, respond to emergencies, secure funding for future improvements and report overflows online.

One of the ways the city is trying to prevent future overflows is by replacing its aging piping. Twenty miles of pipes have already been replaced but the city still has 80 miles to go.

mrosenberg@examiner.com

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