Sewage fouls Midway District and San Diego Bay after broken sensor shuts down pumps

The San Diego County Department of Environmental Health posted signs warning the public of “sewage contaminated water.”
The San Diego County Department of Environmental Health posted signs warning the public of “sewage contaminated water” due to a sewage spill.
(Nelvin C. Cepeda / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

The city of San Diego initially estimates the spill at 500,000 gallons.


Warning signs were posted along miles of shoreline on San Diego Bay after sewage flowed out of manholes into streets and storm drains in downtown San Diego and the Midway District following a sensor malfunction at a wastewater pumping station that spilled an estimated 500,000 gallons of sewage.

Pump Station 2 near San Diego International Airport — which sends wastewater to the treatment plant in Point Loma — shut down for nearly a half-hour Jan. 16, officials said.

“The malfunction caused the wastewater pumps to shut down. As a result, wastewater backed up in the system and there were spills in various locations in the Midway and downtown areas that flow into San Diego Bay,” city representative Arian Collins said in an email.

The pumps shut down around 2:50 p.m. and were manually restarted 27 minutes later. But by then, wastewater had backed up in the system.

Customers in 18 locations in downtown San Diego and the Midway District reported issues created by the spill, Collins said. When sewage backups occur, Collins said, “it comes out of the manholes and it goes into the storm drains.”

Cleanup work began as the sewage spill fouled a section of San Diego Bay and prompted county officials to post closure signs near water access points from Chollas Creek near Barrio Logan north and west to Shelter Island, county officials said.

The closures will remain intact until daily testing shows the bacteria is within state-allowed thresholds.

Residential and commercial customers who were affected by the sewage spill were told to call city officials at (619) 515-3525. Collins said city staff members are investigating what caused the sensor to fail.

Collins said officials initially estimated the sewage spill at 500,000 gallons, but he said that number could increase as they investigate further.

“By the end of the week, city crews will have a final estimate of the number of gallons spilled. Our initial estimate is that the spill accounts for roughly 6 percent of the total amount of wastewater treated [Jan. 16] at the Point Loma Wastewater Treatment Plant,” Collins said.


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