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Environmental Health Division
Environmental Health Division

Sewage Discharge

Division of Environemental Health: Sewage LeakLarge sewage discharges are a violation of Federal, State, and local laws.  When City of Berkeley's Public Works activates Sewage Discharge Protocols formulated by the Division of Environmental Health, the team reacts by notifying numerous agencies and officials (such as the State Office of Emergency Services, State Department of Fish and Game, San Francisco Water Board, the City's Health Officer), assessing the situation, and by taking water samples.

Staff monitor the posting and clean-up operations for compliance with protocols and health standards regarding bacterial water quality.  Besides emergencies, the water at both the Marina and Aquatic Park, as well as several City creeks, are routinely sampled for compliance with bacterial standards.

General Precautions for Sewage Contamination on Residential Property


  • Avoid direct contact with sewage.
  • Wear rubber boots, rubber gloves, and a dust mask during cleanup.
  • Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water after contact with sewage, especially before eating.  Remember to wash children’s hands, too.
  • If sewage has been swallowed, see a physician or clinic.


  • Discard any food without a waterproof container if there is any chance that it has come into contact with sewage.
  • Discard any garden produce which has come in contact with sewage. 
  • Undamaged, commercially canned foods may be saved if you remove the labels,    thoroughly wash the cans, and then disinfect them with a solution consisting of 1 cup     bleach in 5 gallons of water.  Re-label cans, including expiration date, with a marker. 
  • Food containers with screw-caps, snap-lids, crimped caps (soda pop bottles), twist caps, flip tops, and home canned foods should be discarded if they have come into contact with sewage water because they cannot be disinfected.


  • Do not let children play in contaminated areas.
  • Clean and disinfect their play areas.
  • Wash their hands thoroughly and frequently.
  • Don’t let children play with toys which have been in contact with sewage until the toys have been disinfected.  Use a mild solution of 1 cup bleach in 5 gallons of water  to disinfect.
  • Toys that cannot be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected should be discarded.


  • Keep pets out of contaminated areas.
  • Wash and disinfect pet toys.
  • Bathe pets that have been in contact with sewage.


  • Wash all clothing, bedding and linens in hot water or dry-clean them.
  • For mattresses and upholstered furniture which cannot be dry cleaned or washed, air-dry them in the sun and spray thoroughly with disinfectant.
  • Thoroughly wash and disinfect dishes, utensils and food preparation equipment, which may have been exposed to sewage.
  • Be sure sewer lines are intact before turning on water or using the toilet.
  • Clean walls, hard surfaced floors and other surfaces with soap and water.  Disinfect with a solution of 1-cup bleach to 5 gallons water.  Also disinfect areas in which food is stored or prepared, such as countertops, pantry shelves, refrigerator walls and shelves.
  • Discard any contaminated household materials that cannot be disinfected, such as wall coverings, rugs, carpets, and drywall.
  • Ventilate cleaned areas to remove moisture and excess cleanser odors.


  • Keep children and pets out of contaminated areas.
  • If there is solid sewage waste on the ground, it may be shoveled into watertight bags, sealed and discarded in the trash.  Wear rubber gloves and boots.  Wash equipment  when finished.
  • Solid ground surfaces, such as concrete or decking, can be washed and then sanitized with 1cup bleach in 5 gallons of water.
  • Other ground surfaces such as grass, ground cover, and soil, are not easily treated.  However, sunlight, rain, watering systems, and soil components, will naturally denature sewage contamination, usually within 2 weeks.
  • Discard garden produce directly contaminated by sewage.

Note:  This information is provided to assist residents who experience an overflow of sewage on their property.  It is not inclusive of events involving severe flooding, which can cause additional structural damage.

To report a sewage spill in the City of Berkeley, contact Public Works at (510) 981-6620.

Also, for information on the Sanitary Sewer Program and Services provided by the City, please see the Public Works WebPages at: Sanitary Sewer Program 


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Environmental Health Division, 2180 Milvia Street, 2nd Floor Berkeley, CA 94704, Berkeley, CA 94704
Questions or comments? Email: Phone: (510) 981-5310
(510) 981-CITY/2489 or 311 from any landline in Berkeley
TTY: (510) 981-6903