SF Algae Bloom Caused by Old Sewage Plants Dumping ‘Poop and Pee’ into Bay

An extensive algae bloom this summer in the San Francisco Bay has killed millions of fish and other marine life, thanks to the area’s old sewage systems, which allowed human waste to flood the fragile ecosystem.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported Monday that “poop and pee” were the cause of the problem:

After an unprecedented harmful algae bloom first turned San Francisco Bay a murky brown color and then littered its shores with dead fish, many people assumed it was yet another climate disaster to add to the list, along with extreme drought, wildfires and heat waves.

While scientists suspect climate change played a role in triggering the bloom, what fueled it is not a mystery. Algae blooms need food to grow, and this one had plenty: nutrients originating in wastewater that the region’s 37 sewage plants pump into the bay.

A major challenge is that most of the treatment plants date to the 1970s and ’80s, after the passage of the 1972 Clean Water Act and other regulations. Previously, municipalities simply pumped raw sewage into the bay.

Michael Shellenberger argued that scientists had overhyped the role of climate change in the algae bloom.


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