Small sewage spill in Bo


Last Wednesday morning, a weak link in Bolinas’s downtown sewer system broke, spewing as many as 200 gallons of wastewater into the street. The Bolinas Community Public Utility District was on the scene within minutes to contain the spill, which community members initially reported as water. Maintaining service to the 163 customers who rely on the system, the utility district made quick-fix repairs to the busted iron pipe that same morning (employees found a quarter-sized hole, likely caused by electrolysis.) This week, signs posted by the fire district remain on the street, as some of the discharge reached a nearby storm drain and may have entered the lagoon. “We have to assume that if it was possible, then it did,” Jennifer Blackman, the utility district’s manager, said of the possibility of effluent reaching the water body, a designated wetland of international importance. The district immediately took samples both upstream and downstream and reported the break to the Regional Water Quality Control Board, the California Emergency Management Agency and the county, per protocol. David Smail, the county’s supervising environmental health specialist, said the results of water samples from that day showed levels of bacteria that indicate fecal matter exceeding recreational standards by about twofold. Still, tests showed the area had not yet exceeded recreational standards for the month. “With water activity, tidal activity, time and competing organisms, we typically see numbers like this come down,” Mr. Smail said. The hole opened in one 20-foot section of pipe that connects the district’s pumping station on Wharf Road to a check valve in the middle of the street before the sewage is sent uphill to holding ponds on the Mesa. Ms. Blackman said that particular section had not been rehabilitated along with the majority of the district’s pipes in the ‘90s. Flows through that link in particular are high-pressure, she said. The district plans to replace the section early next week. Ms. Blackman said the event was rare; the last time wastewater escaped the collection system was when a manhole backed up in 2010, though sewage did not enter a storm drain that time.