The city’s sewer repair project is on schedule, according to a Department of Public Works status report on the 30-year plan to repair the city’s damaged and aging sewer lines.
The city mandated the Sanitary Sewer Capital Improvement Plan in 1986 after the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Board issued Berkeley a Cease and Desist Order requiring the elimination of sewer and storm drain overflows that were causing untreated sewage to flow into the Bay through the city’s creeks and drainage systems.
In the 14 years since the plan was implemented, the city has made good progress, according to the report. The plan called for the repair of 50 percent of city-owned sewer lines and the construction of relief sewers designed to add capacity to the system. So far the DPW has replaced or repaired nearly 150 miles, or 29 percent of the city’s sewer system. This includes 12 miles of new relief lines.
“We’re ahead of where we thought we’d be but we’re still behind where we’d like to be,” said Director of Public Works Rene Cardinaux.
Cardinaux said the budget for the sewer program this year is $6.3 million. About $4.5 million was spent each year for 14 years since the plan was first put in place, he said.
Cardinaux said the DPW has placed a high priority on repairing sewer lines near creeks. According to the DPW report to council, approximately 75 percent of the sewer mains within 100 feet of all open creeks have been repaired or replaced.
The report also says that 65 overflow connections between the sewer system and the storm drain system have been eliminated which “greatly reduced the pollution of the creeks.”
Susan Schwartz, president of Berkeley nonprofit Friends of Five Creeks, said she as been pleased with the city’s efforts so far. “They’ve done the work much faster than expected,” she said. “And they’ve been very responsive to problems when they arise.”
Schwartz said that the DPW quickly repaired a ruptured pipe near the middle fork of Codornices Creek last year.
“Now what we need is an ordinance to make sure residential lateral lines are unbroken whenever a home is sold,” Schwartz said. “Home values have gotten high enough around here where it won’t be a great hardship to make sure your property’s sewer line is working.”
According to the Friends of Five Creeks Web site, somewhere between 70 and 90 percent of lateral lines are broken, cracked or leaking. Schwartz said inspection at the time of sale would be the best way to ensure that lateral lines are in working order. According to Hands On plumbing of Lafayette, the cost for inspection would run between $125 and $250 for a private home.
Cardinaux said that another ongoing problem is residential storm spouts illegally hooked up to sewer systems instead of to storm drains. “This causes a lot of excess water to flow throughout the sewer system, which causes overflow situations,” he said.