A 10,000-gallon sewage spill, which occurred in San Anselmo on the heels of a roughly 87,000-gallon raw sewage overflow, is a reminder that Ross Valley Sanitary District pipes are falling apart faster than crews can fix them, according to district officials.
While the 10,000-galon spill Nov. 8 at 506 Sequoia Drive was caused by a homeowner driving a stake into a sewer pipe, the Ross Valley Sanitary District has reported 12 spills in the last six months from its dilapidated infrastructure. The spills range from 5 to 87,000-gallons of sewage and occurred in towns including San Anselmo, Fairfax, Kentfield, Larkspur and Greenbrae.
“All of the pipes are aging and coming of age,” RVSD Acting General Manager Wendy Martin-Miller told Patch.
STAKE DRIVEN THROUGH SEWER LINE
The Nov. 8 spill involved wastewater overflowing from a manhole in front of 506 Sequoia Drive.
RVSD officials determined the spill had been going on for several days and recovered 5 gallons of the estimated 10,000-gallon spill. The wastewater did not enter into storm drains or waterways and the overflow was stopped on Nov. 8, according to officials.
A stake was driven through the sewer line, causing a backup and spill. Crews had to remove two stakes from a sewer line at the same location a few months ago, according to Martin-Miller. The stakes were used to secure a planter-box type structure near a resident’s private property.
The property owners responsible for the stake will pay for a plumbing contractor to repair the line – the same contractor they paid to make the same fix earlier this year.
CREEK TESTING STILL UNDERWAY AFTER OTHER SPILL
Sanitary district crews are still testing the waters of Sleepy Hollow Creek after an
The amount of estimated raw sewage released was a bit less than last reported, Martin-Miller said, and crews recovered roughly 1,242 gallons of sewage from the spill, which was an overflowing manhole in an easement behind 64 Woodside Drive.
The sewage flowed downhill a handmade dirt trench toward a storm drain that drains to Sleepy Hollow Creek. “We barricaded the storm drain,” Martin-Miller said.
The district can’t determine how much sewage made it through the drain and into the creek, where daily water testing is still underway. “There are varying levels of bacteria in the creek,” said Martin-Miller, who added that the creek hasn’t had any high levels of bacteria. “What we have to test for is also produced by animals, so it’s difficult to tell. The water from the creek is varying and we don’t know what the normal levels are in the creek.”
They test both upstream from where the spill is expected to have entered the creek and a couple of sites downstream from the spill, she said.
The spill, caused by a buildup around roots in the sewer line, was featured in on ABC Channel 7 and throughout the Bay Area.
A DILAPIDATED SYSTEM
Martin-Miller said most of the district’s infrastructure is between 50 and 100 years old and most of it is supposed to live a maximum of 50 years.
The infrastructure’s deferred maintenance has resulted in aging pipes full of holes and roots. The cracked pipes make it easy for ground water to soak into the system and overwhelm the pipes, Martin-Miller said.
She said district staff has been pressuring the board to fix the infrastructure. “We say a solution needs to come as fast as possible,” she said, adding that multiple small spills occur in dry weather, “which means it’s not the system becoming overwhelmed. It’s the pipes collapsing and creating a blockage.”
Several overflows are caused by people putting diapers, feminine hygiene products or flushable wipes down a drain, Martin-Miller said, who added that even though some wipes are marked as “flushable” it doesn’t mean they should be flushed.
Fixing and rebuilding the system will cost an estimated $300 million. Earlier this summer, the district board rejected a rate increase and a $70 million bond proposal.
The district has long been the source of controversy, most of which heightened with General Manager Brett Richards resigned earlier this year after the Marin Independent Journal raised questions about how he spent a $300,000 district loan. He recently started blogging about his time at the sanitary district.
But now, as the district is working to find an interim general manager and is trying to make peace with the Central Marin Sanitation Agency, officials are trying to be as transparent as possible with the public, Martin-Miller said.
The board recently reorganized its leadership, elected Frank Egger as president and will, hopefully, start addressing the infrastructure woes in the next two months, she said. “We have to find a way to get funding to address this.”
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