The EPA, state Attorney General, and SF Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board just dropped a combined lawsuit onto the City of San Francisco, claiming the city has allowed “more than 1.8 billion gallons of untreated sewage” to flow each year into the Bay and Pacific Ocean

We noted a couple times over the course of this year’s winter months that trash was appearing of SF beaches after heavy storms, which is regrettably a normal occurrence after significant rainfall, and that partially treated sewage could be intermingled with this trash. That may have been because the city’s combined sewer system outflows put rainwater runoff and treated sewage into the same flow, and that could accumulate some trash when the pipes are particularly backed up.

But the SF Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) pushed back against the assertion that trash was flowing out of their outflows, with a spokesperson telling SFGate in January that those outflows “did not have any of those types of outfall discharges near Fort Funston or Ocean Beach during the storms last weekend,” and that “Trying to blame our system for trash in those locations appears to be inaccurate.”

Yet now the SF Examiner reports on a new lawsuit from the EPA, California Attorney General, and SF Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board that accuses the city of allowing sewage to flow into the SF Bay And Pacific Ocean, and alleges that the outflow system is in disrepair.

The full lawsuit accuses SF of “repeated and widespread failures to operate its two combined stormwater-sewer systems and sewage treatment plants in compliance with the law and its permits, and in a manner that keeps untreated sewage off the streets and beaches of San Francisco.” It also alleges that “The City’s failures to comply with its permits or properly operate its system significantly increases the risk that members of the public, including, for example, surfers, swimmers, and others recreating on beaches, unknowingly come into contact with untreated sewage, which contains pathogens and high enterococci and E.coli bacteria levels.”

The suit additionally claims that SF has allowed an average of 1.8 billion gallons of untreated sewage to flow into these water bodies each year since 2016.

“San Francisco’s aging wastewater system has exposed the public to risks for too long,” SF Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board chair Alexis Strauss said in a press release announcing the lawsuit. “This is the time to commit to an outcome which reduces sewage overflows and builds upgraded wastewater infrastructure. Our goal is to help San Francisco achieve a healthy Bay and coastline, which can be enjoyed by millions of residents and visitors every day."

The city operates two wastewater treatment plants in the Bayview District, plus one near Lake Merced, which some jokers tried to get named after George W. Bush in a 2008 political stunt.

For their part, the SFPUC told the Examiner that the lawsuit would be “costly and unfair” to SF taxpayers. SFPUC spokesperson Nancy Crowley also told the paper that “Partnership and support from the federal and state government would be more helpful than costly and counterproductive litigation.”

The SF City Attorney’s Office was also displeased with the lawsuit. “The EPA prefers to threaten communities with enormous fines and costly litigation in lieu of working in partnership with the nation’s cities,” spokesperson Jen Kwart told the Examiner. “SFPUC stands ready to work collaboratively with EPA to achieve cost-effective solutions, just as it has for the past seven years.”

This is not the only lawsuit against the city regarding wastewater treatment, but it may be the most serious. The environmental group SF Baykeeper sued the city in March for allegedly allowing wastewater to flow into Mission Creek; and last August, a group of homeowners (including former 49ers QB Joe Montana) also sued the city for storm drain overflow that they claimed brought untreated sewage water into their homes.

Related: Trash and Debris Showing Up Again On SF Beaches, As It Often Does After Rainstorms [SFNews]

Image: SFPUC