October 30, 2009

SF Bay Oil Spill

If you are in the Bay Area you must have heard about the oil spill today. Well a lot of us in the SFPUC have been on standby just in case the oil made it's way to the S.F. shoreline. What does wastewater have to do with beach/shoreline cleanups? Well, it turns out that most of our wastewater personnel are HAZWOPER certified.(no it is not a Burger King burger!) Fortunately this spill is A LOT smaller in size. Still, bunker fuel can cause tar balls to form on the land so we want to be prepared just in case.

Remember back in 2007 when the Cosco Busan spilled more than 53,000 gallons of oil into the Bay? Guess who lead the clean-up effort at Ocean Beach! That's right... SFPUC Wastewater Enterprise.

Check out some pics from our cleanup efforts at the Ocean Beach. We helped over 1000 San Franciscans get trained and prepped for the beach cleaning. And you thought we only dealt with crap!

October 26, 2009

Pride and Petsjustcute

Pet lovers joined in early to celebrate their pets and the coming Halloween eve at 20th Annual Pet Pride Day held in Golden Gate Park’s Sharon Meadow on Sunday, October 25. The incredible weather was just the treat that both pets and humans to enjoy while visiting informational booths that included adoptable pets of all species, animal rescue groups; pet product vendors free goodies and raffle prizes!

The day’s events included a Halloween pet costume contest, pet trick competition, incredible Frisbee dog tricks and the ever popular SFPUC sponsored Super Dooper Pooper Scooper Kiddie Goodie Scramble, all hosted by Master of Ceremonies, Doug McConnell of ‘Bay Area Backroads’ and ‘Mac and Mutley’ fame.

The Super Dooper Pooper Scooper Kiddies’ Goodie Scramble helped to instruct children and adults alike to pick up their pet’s waste and dispose of it properly.

SFPUC staff distributed pet waste bags throughout the day to ensure everyone picked up and disposed of their pet's waste in a proper manner.

So, just how are you supposed to dispose of your pet's waste in San Francisco. Follow these tips and you will be part of the solution to water pollution:


ALWAYS pick up after your dog and dispose of its contents into the trash! There are over 120,000 dogs in San Francisco, and each one poops once or twice a day... you do the math!
  • Look for and use biodegradable pet waste bags available in dispensers at local parks.

  • Carry extra biodegradable bags when walking your dog and encourage other dog owners to clean up after their pets, as well.

  • Teach your children how to properly clean up and dispose of pet waste. Your actions set an example for others.

  • Dispose of biodegradable pet waste bag in the BLACK trash bin.

  • DO NOT put into BLUE recycling bin or GREEN compost bin.

  • DO NOT flush into the toilet or drop into the stormdrain on on the corner (up to a $25,000 fine for dumping into stormdrain!)

    When you pick up after your dog, you are helping the environment because...

“We all Live Downstream!”

October 22, 2009

Crazy Monday Storm

Oct. 19 was such a crazy day for many people due to the storms. Mother Nature decided to not play nice and surprised everyone by unloading a lot of water from the sky in a short period of time. Manholes and side sewer vents overflowed, intersections flooded, and unfortunately some people's homes were damaged in the process.

The good thing is that in most instances City departments came together to help those areas in need. This came in the form of pumping out water, cleaning debris, or sanitizing homes and businesses so people weren't displaced. Still, there was a lot of damage done.

What happened? Well, San Francisco's combined sewer system is designed to carry around 0.8 inches/hour of flow. This is based on historical weather models... and most of the time it's enough. For example, during the Oct 13 storm or any of the rainstorms over the past two years (albeit there weren't enough) you didn't hear reports of whole neighborhoods flooding.

Clogged catch basins and intersections yes, but not rivers of water and manhole geysers.

On Monday, some of our gauges showed that nature dropped a whopping 0.71 inches of rain in 20 MINUTES in many areas. Even in areas previously prone to flooding (where we subsequently upgraded our system), the storm intensity thrown our way was too much, too fast. Of course, the upgrades helped, and some areas could have fared far worse, but that's understandably little consolation to those who had their homes, businesses, and lives affected.

Rather than blab on about the system... I'll direct you to a a very informative web post written by San Franciscan Jeff Diehl (WARNING: some expletives are used in the page).

More to come about our combined sewer system in coming weeks. We'll be reevaluating where our system goes from here as we move forward with plans to rebuild it -- and we'll be incorporating a lot of different strategies, like Low Impact Design (which is mentioned in Jeff's post).


Were you affected on Monday? Post your story in the comments section.

October 20, 2009

The First Flush: It is not what you think!

Last week was our first big rainstorm of the season in San Francisco. In the wastewater business the "first flush" refers to the initial rainwater that runs off the street into a storm drain (or San Francisco's case a catch basin!). While the rainwater itself is clean, the stuff it picks up off the street is not. Think of the motor oil, brake dust, garden chemicals, paint, etc., that end up washing into the system.

That's where the beauty of San Francisco's combined sewer system comes into play. Since we have one sewer pipe for both our sewage and stormwater that connects to our treatment plants. Our system provides full treatment for "first flush" pollutants.

Fancy that! So why do you think San Francisco is the one of only two places in California that has a combined sewer system? Can you guess where the other combined sewer system is located. (HINT: It is Old......)

Stay tuned for the answer.

October 19, 2009

SIR Follows the Flow

So what does one do when retired? For members of the Northern California Chapter of Sons in Retirement (SIR) http://sirinc.org/ retirement is an opportunity to come together to take pleasure in a good meal, enjoy good company, and tour interesting and new places. And just what is interesting and new? For members of SIR, interesting and new meant touring the SFPUC Oceanside Wastewater Treatment Plant on Saturday, October 17. SIR members enjoyed a beautiful balmy day while touring the SFPUC Oceanside Wastewater Treatment Plant located on the Great Highway.
SIR members listened intently to the water conservation, water pollution prevention and wastewater treatment process discussion that helped them to understand just what it takes to get San Francisco’s wastewater stream clean enough to discharge into the Pacific Ocean. In addition, they were able to listen to one of the SFPUC Biologist, Laura Targgart tell them just how the biology department gives the wastewater treatment plant a report card on just how well they are doing in protecting the water environment that surrounds San Francisco. Many commented that after seeing what happens after it goes down the drain, gave them a new perspective on the fees they pay, and just where that money goes.

Want to “Follow-the-Flow” to find out more about wastewater treatment and just what does happen when it goes down the drain; join us for one of the regularly scheduled Saturday tours of the SFPUC Wastewater Treatment Plant. For more information visit http://sfwater.org/tour or call 415-695-7341.

October 16, 2009

Good Question! A penny down the toliet?

11 year old Chloe of San Leandro asked Channel 5 KPIX reporter Ken Bastida "What happens if I flush an object down the toliet?" Check out what a fun time one SF Sewer Guru had responding to this question at the Oceanside Treatment Plant near the SF Zoo.

Take a guess before you view and see if you get the answer right. The answer may surprise you... or maybe not since you are all such educated sewer fans!


October 8, 2009

SFPUC Announces Whole Foods SOMA and Franklin Stores in SF as the Two New Permanent “Waste Cooking Oil to Biofuel” Residential Collection Sites

San Francisco, CA – The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) today announced Whole Foods South of Market (SOMA) and Franklin stores as the two new additions to the list of year-round, permanent locations in San Francisco for residents to drop off their used cooking oil for conversion into biofuel. Residents will be able to drop off their used cooking oil at the San Francisco Whole Foods SOMA and Franklin stores during store hours.

The Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council Recycling Center (HANC) and Dogpatch Biofuels in the Potrero Hill neighborhood, as well as the Household Drop-off Waste Center are also collecting residential waste cooking oil year-round.

Launched in 2007, SFGreasecycle is a citywide effort by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) to divert fats, oil and grease away from the sewers and recycle them into biodiesel. Used cooking oils are a serious problem for San Francisco’s wastewater system, clogging the sewers and costing more than $3.5 million each year to unclog the pipes.

Recycled oil from restaurants is estimated to generate 1.5 million gallons of low-emission biofuel each year. SFPUC has been collecting cooked oil from restaurants and food service establishments at no cost. So far, close to 800 restaurants signed up with the program, with more than 280,000 gallons of used cooking oil collected.

The past two years, the SFPUC has also organized two Thanksgiving and Christmas residential collection events and a used cooking oil drop off opportunity at the Big Blue Bucket Eco-Fair, where more than 3,000 gallons of used cooking oil were collected.

The success of the collection events prompted the SFPUC to secure permanent locations for residents to drop off their used oil.

Residents who want to participate should start saving up their used cooking oil now. Here are some easy tips to avoid spilling oil:
1. Cool down used cooking oil in the pan
2. Pour used oil into a clean, non-breakable, leak-proof container with a tight lid. Consider using old containers, such as mayonnaise jars or the original container.
3. Make sure oil is free of water, soapsuds, and food scraps.
4. Drop-off your leak-proof container at HANC, Dogpatch Biofuels or one of the Whole Foods markets in San Francisco.

Here is where residents can drop off their used cooking oil in San Francisco:
* Whole Foods SOMA – every day during store hours, 8am to 10pm: 399 4th Street (at Harrison Street).
Phone: 415-618-0050
* Whole Foods Franklin – every day during store hours, 8am to 10pm: 1765 California Street (at Franklin Street).
Phone: 415-674-0500.
* Whole Foods Potrero Hill – only on the 4th Friday of the month, from 11am to 3pm: 450 Rhode Island Street (at 17th Street).
Phone: 415-552-1155
* Dogpatch Biofuels: 765 Pennsylvania Avenue (between 22nd & 23rd Streets), Tuesday to Friday 11am to 7pm, Saturday 11am to 4pm, closed on Sunday and Monday.
Phone: 415-643-3435.
* Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council Recycling Center (HANC): 755 Frederick Street (at Arguello Boulevard), Monday to Saturday 9am to 4pm, Sunday 12pm (Noon) to 4pm. Phone: 415-753-2971
* Household Drop-off Waste Center: Recycle Road (between 401 and 501 Tunnel Avenue), Thursday, Friday and Saturday, from 8am to 4pm.
Phone: 415-330-1400

For more information or to sign up for the SFPUC’s SFGreasecycle’s free restaurant used oil collection service, visit www.SFGreasecycle.org.

P2 Weekly Tip: Gardening With Children

Do you have a child or know of one who is interested in gardening?

Gardening is fun and helps children as young as three and four years of age to appreciate the natural world by learning the principles of environmental stewardship and understanding where their food comes from. To get your child or family involved, visit http://www.kidsgardening.org/ or http://www.sfgreenschools.org/ for more information.

October 1, 2009

Hear Two Great Stormwater Presentations Tomorrow at West Coast Green!

Hear Two SFPUC presentations on stormwater management practices and policies this Friday at West Coast Green!

Start your day at the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission Networking Cafe with a discussion of the Stormwater Design Guidelines, led by SFPUC stormwater planner Sarah Minick. Bring a coffee - it starts at 8AM!

Later, catch fellow stormwater planner Rosey Jenck’s talk in the session titled: The Water and Energy Connection: San Francisco Case in Point Friday, October 2nd, 5:00 PM - 6:00 PM

P2 Weekly Tip: Make Way For Water To Flow Freely!

The rain will be here soon! Time to start thinking about what belongs down the storm and sewer drains! Now would be a good time to clean out your roof gutter, clear your downspout, and rake leaves and debris out of your street gutter and catch basins (storm drains)!

If you attended the 2nd annual BIG Blue bucket Eco-Fair then you probably visited SFPUC’s “Adopt a Catch Basin” booth and “Rainwater Harvesting” booth and participated in one of the rainwater harvesting workshops, where you were coached on how to build your own rain barrel for rainwater collection. If you missed the event, you can always view the “video of the month” to learn how to Build Your Rain Barrel System with Chaplin and Keaton.

Remember, don't dump waste in or around storm or sewer drains. To report illegal dumping and potential storm water pollutants, or if you see a catch basin filled with debris and to report flooded streets, call 3-1-1. Remember to keep your catch basin happy, by keeping them clean!