• Don't Drink The Water


    East Bay water managers released about 50,000 gallons of sewage into the estuary between Oakland and Alameda on Saturday morning after a power failure caused equipment to fail at a wastewater treatment plant.

    The incident prompted the East Bay Municipal Utility District to urge the public not to swim or boat in the estuary until sampling indicates it is safe to do so. That process could take several days, a spokeswoman for the district said Saturday.

    District officials said their main wastewater treatment plant in West Oakland unexpectedly received no power from Pacific Gas and Electric Co. between about 5:10 and 6:50 p.m. Friday. The power loss was not caused by the rolling blackouts Pacific Gas and Electric Co. implemented Friday at the direction of state electric managers, according to the company.

    As a result of the blackout, the pump station that ferries sewage from East Bay neighborhoods to the treatment plant flooded and caused a backup. While crews raced to fix the problem overnight, the sewage flows exceeded the area’s storage capacity before all the equipment was functioning normally again, the district said in a statement.

    The district then “discharged raw sewage to the Oakland-Alameda Estuary from the foot of Alice Street and Embarcadero Street in Oakland” between 4 and 8:30 a.m. Saturday, the statement said.

    While the plant has backup power capacity, the sudden nature of the blackout prevented that equipment from being used immediately, said district spokeswoman Andrea Pook.

    “Had we had notice, we would be able to rearrange our electricity at the plant to be able to get off of PG&E power, but we just didn’t quite have that time to do that,” Pook said. “It’s not like we just flip a switch. It takes a little bit of configuration to make that happen.”

    PG&E said Saturday that it did not yet know what caused the power failure, which affected 4,150 Oakland customers. But a blistering statewide heat wave that started Friday may have been to blame.

    “While we do not know the cause for this outage we did have heat-related outages throughout much of our service area” Friday, PG&E spokesman Paul Moreno said in an email Saturday.

    The utility district said it has notified regulatory agencies about the incident and posted signs telling the public not to swim in the water. District officials are aiming to have a complete report about what happened within a week.

    J.D. Morris is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: jd.morris@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @thejdmorris
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