Title: Sewage Pipe Collapse destroys Muwekma Ohlone Sanctuary at Islais Creek in  Hunter's Point Bayview, ButcherTown Area of San Francisco


Construction crews for San Francisco PUC have been working for the last several months, drilling tunnels, called "duct banks"  under Islais Creek to bring power, communication, and data cables from  the north side of the Islais

Creek Channel east of Third Street (as part of the preparation for the

future Muni Third Street light rail maintenance yard being built at the area bounded by Illinois, 25th, Chavez and SF Bay) to connect to the Hunters Point Power Plant as the source of electric power. ( Hey what about Hunters Point Power Plant shutdown??. or that the Potrero Power Plant is only a few hundred yards north of the maintenance yard?)

For the last several weeks, drilling subcontractors for the SF Muni

have been drilling the duct banks tunnels in the uncompacted sand and gravel landfill at Pier 80 and Islais Creek, crosswise (90%) under a 5 or 6 ft.diameter sewer main that empties underwater, and several hundred yards out into the Bay on the east side of Pier 80.

On Monday or Tuesday, a local resident saw spurts of muck shooting out

of the earth leaving volcano-like one or two foot mounds of earth over

the area. Neighbors called in reports.

Following  observations of local residents and agenicies, huge emergency underground construction, diving, welding, PUC, DPW, Water Dept, Port of San Francisco,Sewage Department, SF Muni, casual labor, consultants, insurance reps, and several permits officers, and more, repair crews arrived and have been working day and night since Tuesday.  They shut off the sewage pump and

the flow was shifted to another line that diverts the sewae outflow to Islais Creek which has resulted in fines defined as $15 per gallon for secondary efluent outflows. Very important to note is that the damaged pipe under emergency repairs handled an average of 80 million gallons of outflow per day, so go do the math! The sluice gate on the bay was

closed to prevent backflow.  A diver who went into the damaged pipe for inside repairs on Tuesday discovered the tunnel had collapsed.  Removal

of the land supporting the huge sewer main had cause shifting, then a

crack and leakage.  The bay fill land had liquefied, sewage spilled out. 

A worker who parked on the pavement toppled down into the hole atop his

backhoe, nearly losing his life.  Park activists converged and attempted

to save their tools and trees. The leak has hopefully stopped, but the

toxic spill has ruined the Muwekma Ohlone Park that the Islais Creek

activists had spent so much time and effort and love developing. A 20ft.

deep by 60 ft. long by 50 ft. wide sinkhole and a field of mud now replaces

what was flowers, trees, creatures and community.


The park was the result of  years of work on land traditionally occupied

by the Ohlone tribe.  It had become a sanctuary of native plants, birds,

and community groups, a refuge of green surrounded by the ships and

towering industrial machinery of the Port of San Francisco.  The

"guerilla gardeners" have maintained the site for eight years with the permission of the port.  With a USDA urban partnership grant they won a year ago, they master-planned habitat restoration of the land and intertidal areas, and environmental education programs. This past year groups such as the SF

Conservation Corps, SLUG, Wildlife Habitat Council, the Living Art

Community and many Bayview and Islais groups and individuals had done a massive cleanup, restoration and support.  Four or five protected species had been found during the habitat survey, plus one unique vertebrate never before


It was enthusiatically documented by the California Academy of


In an August ceremony special earth had been donated by indigenous


of San Francisco.  Art and cultural events were held this summer

including a

Native American film festival in May.  A healing pole and history


placard were planned. Two other significant grants have since been awarded.

Emergency cleanup crews are still working day and night to remediate the

situation.  Eighty million gallons of secondary (post treatment plant)

effluent goes through the main and there is a $15/gallon fine on the

books,reflecting the seriousness of this type of spill.  The cost of the work

may pale next to the fine if it is actually imposed.  On Thursday,

Thanksgiving day, they welded bands on the sewer pipe as a custom gasket was being

Flown out from the east coast to enable re-pressurize and testing the main.

Muni talked of  putting concrete around the pipe next Monday.


What will happen now, what should happen?  Who is going to pay, who will

restore the park?  "How do you put a value on life?" says David Erickson,

project facilitator for the sanctuary and eight year participant.  He

contemplated  the displaced frogs hopping around the upheaved earth and

equipment, the birds, the earthworms.  "It takes a lifetime to watch a

tree grow," he said of the uprooted eight year old trees.  "It looks

like Kandahar (Afghanistan)--a huge hole in the ground."  The city crew said

they would try to save some of the trees.  A Muni engineering supervisor

assured him that they're "not going to walk away from this" and promised

nice topsoil.  "First I felt shock, then anger" said David, "Now I hope

some good will come out of it." 


And the disaster opened up a whole new set of ominous questions.  Why

were the transmission lines being run to the Hunters Point power plant

that supposedly is to be closed instead of the much closer Potrero


Why was the city drilling under a sewage main on fill with a high risk


liquefaction.  Where are the Environment Impact Reports for this work


for the duct banks for the line under the creek.  There is even a

possibility that they weren't sure there was a sewage outfall above the

drilling.  Perhaps Sophie Maxwell and city hall should call for hearings

to bring some sunshine to bear on what's going on.


And at the same time, in the same area, why is the Illinois Street

railroad bridge suddenly (via pressure and money from Catellus) being

transformed into a 2-lane or 4-lane intermodal (with rail) north-south

corridor for huge trucks from the asphalt and concrete plant across the

channel at the pier 90s to serve Mission Bay developments?  Threatening

to cut through Illinois Street alongside the residents and the


it will destroy the loading docks, the outrigger canoe club, the


and intertidal habitat.  Neighbors are organizing and having meetings to

stop this looming threat of traffic and pollution to this unique corner

of the city. To get involved contact______.


Photos by David Erickson and Maurice Campbell are posted at



More information on the park and pictures at




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