Santa Rosa waterways have seen record inflows since last week’s massive storm, forcing the city to declare a local emergency as its wastewater facility was unable to take on the water. In the end, wastewater managers were forced to release 250 million gallons of treated sewage into the nearby streams.
The record flows over a three-day span brought five times the normal amount of runoff and wastewater into the Laguna de Santa Rosa facility. To avoid overflowing the facility, managers began releasing treated sewage into the Santa Rosa, Laguna and Colgan creeks, which all eventually flow into the Russian River. The releases have been ongoing since last Wednesday.
The local emergency came in coordination with California Governor Gavin Newsome’s state emergency as North Bay communities were being flooded due to torrential rain. The emergency declaration gives the city the ability to alter its wastewater plant operations and give them some breathing room on the state’s strict wastewater compliance laws.
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Numerous Sonoma County roads and highways remained closed Thursday afternoon, more than a dozen school districts canceled class and the Russian River continued to slowly drop, pulling back floodwaters from inundated river communities still isolated by submerged roads. See more photos and keep up with updates on our website. Link in bio.
The release of the treated sewage was enacted to give the plant enough room to store water flows from this week’s storm Some of the sewage was stored in bins and will now be fully treated, and the facility does not expect any more flooding in the coming weeks, although the local emergency will last until the end of March.
The treatment of sewage is a long, multiphase process that includes exposure to UV rays. Not only was the treated sewage not fully exposed to the rays, but the data of the sewage also wasn’t collected by state water officials, which is required by law.
City officials have been in constant contact with state water officials and will have to file a report of the incident to the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board.
The historic rainfall that caused the sewage fiasco will cost Sonoma County an estimated $155 million in damages, especially in Guerneville where hundreds of homes and businesses were flooded. In just one day in Santa Rosa, 5.66 inches of rain fell on the area.