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The Green Life: Wastewater Spills, San Francisco Bay, and Beyond

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June 02, 2009

Wastewater Spills, San Francisco Bay, and Beyond

Eight to 12 hours. That's how long it takes water flushed down the toilet in San Francisco to end up in the bay. 

Most of the time, the water undergoes several stages of purification before it gets there, but sometimes, especially during rainy parts of the year, the Bay Area's wastewater treatment plants get overloaded and raw sewage is discharged into the bay. The segment above from KQED's QUEST looks at how the Bay Area's crumbling sewer infrastructure and poor regulation is causing this problem.

Think you are in the clear because you don't live in San Francisco?  The problem is huge: The EPA estimates that there are 40,000 "Sanitary Sewer Overflows" every year. To take it out of Orwell-speak, that means raw sewage gets dumped into supposedly clean water sources more than 100 times a day.

--Mario Aguilar

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