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Monday, November 9, 2015

Ew: Rain Bubbling Sewage in SF 'Hood, Neighbors Say

Posted By on Mon, Nov 9, 2015 at 12:56 PM


People across San Francisco are celebrating the rain. But for the neighbors along Cayuga Street, rain means one thought: "Oh, shit."

Actual crap may be bubbling up along these streets, as you can see in the above Instagram post. As SF Weekly reported in a recent cover story, that neighborhood near Interstate 280 as well as 17th and Folsom streets both flood when it rains — and when it rains, it floods sewage from an overtaxed stormwater-sewage system. 

The video is from Instagram user "Solutions Not Sandbags," who posted video of a sewer vent bubbling what they call sewage and rain water onto the sidewalk. 

Solutions Not Sandbags is an association of neighbors trying to rally city government to stop shit from bubbling into their homes. One of the neighbors highlighted in the cover story, Donna Marie Ponferrada, confirmed she sent the tweets after this morning's rain. The video was taken by a neighbor, but posted by Ponferrada.

"Clog in the system?" she asks alongside her video. 

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which manages the city's sewers, is crying foul on the crap-call. Jean Walsh, wastewater communications manager at PUC, told SF Weekly that the video didn't appear to show sewage.

"I think it’s just rain," Walsh said.

"I don’t have reports of anything sewage related," she added, "I know people are worried because they’re in a low lying area, but this rain was no big deal. People are just nervous."

The sewage was the least of the neighborhood's worries, though. Another video she posted shows what Ponferrada called "contaminated runoff" from the Interstate-280 across a garden on Still and Rotteck streets.

"The Caltrans storm drain... is epic failing right now as I write this!" Ponferrada wrote in her Instagram post. 

"This is not good," she continues, "All that contaminated run off [sic] from the freeway is daylighting instead of going directly into the sewer!"

"As far as I know, no city [department] has reached out," Ponferrada told SF Weekly, in an email. "Nor has there been any city attention this morning. Meaning, no crews/equipment were sent to monitor."

But SFPUC is planning something in the long term to help, Walsh told us. The agency has a plan to "detain excess surface water" near I-280 by re-grading some of the area near I-280 as well as reconnecting drains and building walls to prevent flooding. That "would reduce the depth of flooding at the bottom of Cayuga in all storms where flooding occurs," the report states, while adding an important caveatt: "No capital improvement could be built that would eliminate flooding in all storms."

"We're careful in saying we're going to fix the problem," Walsh said. "It may still flood, but it'll be less deep."

This could mean the difference between feet of water rushing into homes, and inches of water seeping into cracks, she explains.

There's more good news for the neighbors, in the form of clear skies and no more rain. The National Weather Service reports a 20 percent chance of precipitation tomorrow and sunny skies the rest of the week. Nothing like last winter's "stormageddon," when the rain blew the tops off of manholes.

If the new improvements by Caltrans don't alleviate all of the sewage flooding, neighbors shouldn't hold their breath for long-term help. One Cayuga neighbor, Michael Sanchez, found this out straight from the mayor. 

Per Shit Storm: 
Sanchez attends public meetings with the SFPUC. She stands up and tells her story. She makes noise. She recalls meeting the mayor in the elevator once when she was at City Hall. "I said, 'Good morning, this is Mrs. Sanchez who lives in the Cayuga.' I said, 'Don't forget us.' I asked him, 'Are you going to do anything?' He turned around and said, 'Well, it's going to cost us a lot of money.'"
If the PUC's new solution doesn't alleviate the problem, the Cayuga neighbors may be among the only San Franciscans who don't pray for rain. 
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