The sewage spills from two blacked out San Diego pump stations earlier this month could cost city residents a ton of money.
Questions are now being raised about a decision nearly ten years ago, when the city didn’t invest in backup generators.
When the SDG&E grid was blacked out on Sept. 8, the pumps at waste water stations 1 and 64 both lost their dual electric power feeds.
A 2002 consultant's report had recommended installing backup generators there, for about $3 million apiece.
But that didn't happen.
The result? Raw sewage flooded through the stations for five hours.
The outflow from Pump Station 64 went into Los Penasquitos Creek, its lagoon, and out into the ocean at Torrey Pines State Beach, prompting closures for five miles in each direction for nearly six days.
City officials are reporting a total of 2.6 million gallons for that spill.
"We still see spills even during localized outages,” Travis Pritchard, a Coastkeeper environmental scientist said. “It doesn't take a giant, region-wide outage to cause the sewage spills."
At Pump Station 1, the original figure cited for the sewage that ran into the Sweetwater River and San Diego Bay was 120,000 gallons.
But that's since been revised upwards by a factor of 6 to 870,000.
"I would like the city to take steps to make sure proper backup is in place,” Pritchard said.
The Public Utilities Department is now re-assessing the need for non-grid 'redundancy' at those stations and several others among the 82 the city operates.
At Station 64, the site may only accommodate an emergency portable generator.
Environmentalists say the 'unprecedented' scope of the SDG&E blackout is something officials now have to take into consideration going forward.
"I don't want to second-guess the decision made in 2001 or 2002, because at that time that may have been the best decision for the city,” San Diego Public Utilities Department Assistant Anna Sasaki said. “Whenever you have incidents happen, you take stock. You reevaluate. And that is what we're going to be doing."