Marinas’ Plan for Waste Management During Blackouts

Kappas collector tank near Gate 6 ½ entry  |  photo by Larry Clinton  |  post by Peter Hudson

During the PG&E Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS) last fall, residents were cautioned not to shower, flush their toilets, or let their holding tanks fill with any kind of wastewater. With no electricity to run our grinder pumps, our holding tanks could overflow, with very unpleasant and unhealthy results. Even if some households had back-up power (gas generators or solar, for example) to run their pumps, there was a danger of the onshore collector tanks filling up to the point where sewage could back up into homes with weak one-way check valves.

This year, marina operators are making plans to periodically empty those collector tanks during any PSPS events. Waldo Point Harbor has purchased a portable generator which it will use to power the pumps at the main onshore collector tanks to empty them into the Sanitary District’s main line. WPH staff may do this up to 2 times daily. Yellow Ferry Harbor and Commodore, which have one collector tank each, have made similar preparations. At Kappas, one large-capacity collector tank services all three floating home docks; harbor management plans to monitor it regularly and engage the services of a vacuum pump truck to empty it as needed. In addition to monitoring the waste disposal systems, most marinas plan to provide temporary portable toilets for residents with no power.

Households with back-up power sources are urged to limit pumping and be aware of their marina’s shoreside collector tank pump-out procedures and schedules. Those residents using back-up power should manually operate their holding tank pump when it is time to empty the holding tank by using the pump breaker switch on your panel or just unplugging the pump and plugging it back in. An empty tank will not refill for a long interval—as long as strict water conservation is being practiced. If you need assistance finding your holding tank disconnect, check the informative video on the FHA website.

Those residents choosing to use gasoline-powered generators are reminded that the noise and exhaust fumes emitted from those units can disturb their neighbors. Gasoline generators should only be used for limited periods during daytime hours and should always be used in areas where the fumes cannot accumulate or waft into the homes of neighbors. Care should also be taken when fueling generators to reduce the risk of fire or spilling gasoline into the bay. Residents who choose to use back-up power should consult a licensed electrician if they plan to feed auxiliary power directly into the main house circuit at the breaker box.

In an emergency, the FHA has its own portable generator which can be transported to an individual home and hooked up to power the household’s holding tank pump. You can make an emergency request by calling the FHA Waste Systems Response Team at 415-717-6469.