The Environmental Protection Agency issued a notice Wednesday accusing San Francisco of violating the Clean Water Act, a 1970s environmental regulation designed to protect the country’s waterways and tributaries.
San Francisco is struggling to maintain its sprawling sewage system, allowing “substantial volumes of raw and partially-treated sewage to flow across beaches and into the San Francisco Bay,” EPA spokeswoman Molly Block told reporters ahead of the notice. California and the administration have traded barbs over the issue recently.
EPA’s regional director representing San Francisco noted that sewage is overrunning the city in some areas.
“There have been instances of sewage flowing in the streets and entering people’s homes,” Michael Stoker, head of EPA’s Region 9 district, wrote to Harlan Kelly Jr., the general manager of San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. Data also show high concentrates of zinc and lead threaten the city’s beaches, he added.
“President Donald Trump criticised the city recently for the violations, telling reports aboard Air Force One on Sept. 19 that “we’re going to be giving San Francisco, they’re in total violation, we’re going to be giving them a notice very soon.” He added that “It’s a terrible situation.”
San Francisco has experienced an 18% rise in homelessness since 2015, and the issue is causing the streets to be littered with trash, feces, and used needles. An interactive map created in 2014 called “Human Wasteland” shows a heavy concentration of incidents of human excrement throughout the city.
EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler seized on the issue, writing a Sept. 26 letter to Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom citing multiple instances of California failing to meet federal water quality standards, noting that the problems are stemming from the state’s homeless population.