Bay Area/ North SF Bay Area/ Weather & Environment
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Published on March 08, 2024
Storm-Triggered Wastewater Spill at Russian River County Plant Sends Sewage Water into EnvironmentSource: Flickr / Seán A. O'Hara

A wastewater facility in Russian River County is the latest site for environmental concern after a spill released thousands of gallons of partially treated water into the surrounding area. The incident occurred throughout Friday night, March 1, into the early morning hours of Saturday and was triggered by a potent storm that swept through the region.

The Russian River County Sanitation District Treatment Plant, which began operations in 1983, could not contain the spill due to the severe weather conditions. This led to less than 277,000 gallons of secondary treated wastewater accidentally flowing out, as reported on Sonoma County's official website. Some of the spill was captured within the confines of the plant, but excess runoff made its way nearly a third of a mile through a wooded area before ultimately reaching the Russian River.

Despite the circumstances, the river's high water flow at the overflow, clocking in at over 7,500 cubic feet per second at the Hacienda Bridge, appears to have diluted the spill. Sonoma Water, officially charged with the area's water supply, flood control, and sanitation services, has proactively managed the aftermath. They promptly notified the required regulatory agencies and dispatched environmental specialists to assess the potential damage.

Fortunately, the initial assessments showed no apparent harm to local aquatic or terrestrial life. Secondary treated effluent is less hazardous than raw sewage as it has been processed to remove most solid and organic materials. Yet, a certain amount of solid matter can still be present in the water not having gone through the full, tertiary stage of wastewater treatment. According to the details shared by the Sonoma County website, the treatment facility usually operates with the capability to extensively purify wastewater before it is released into the environment.

The facility is meant to handle up to 710,000 gallons of daily flow during dry weather conditions, providing tertiary treatment levels for wastewater, also known as advanced water treatment. The cleanup efforts and further investigations by Sonoma Water are ongoing, ensuring such incidents are prevented in the future and the sanitation service remains protective of the county's valued natural resources.