With the cold temperatures and the fast-moving water, you aren’t going to find anybody swimming in the San Joaquin River anytime soon.
But there’s one other thing that would prevent somebody from wanting to get into that water right now.
Nearly raw sewage.
Last week the City of Modesto began releasing small amounts of semi-treated wastewater – disinfected sewage – after the surging Tuolumne River broke a sewer main line and caused the city’s treatment plant to fill up with storm water, cutting into its available capacity.
Millions of gallons of the semi-treated wastewater have been released so far out of three holding ponds on Jennings Road that store treated but not disinfected water.
Crews were waiting for the river level to drop before they could begin the repairs necessary to bring the problem under control – releasing water from those ponds directly into the San Joaquin River.
That water eventually flows behind South Manteca where it splits with an arm that runs through rural Tracy. The other portion of the river flows behind River Islands and the City of Lathrop before mixing in with water from the Sacramento River basin in Stockton and making the trek out to the San Francisco Bay.
While the decision by the City of Modesto to do so is still considered a health hazard, the water has been treated – it’s the lack of disinfectant that kills the remaining bacteria that makes it unsafe to swim in and drink – the water that is typically released during floods, which picks up toxic chemicals, agricultural animal waste and other nasty elements not typically found in snowpack runoff, is already considered toxic.
While there have been advances in controlling the river level thanks to a lack of storms, there is still a snowpack that is 200 percent of normal that must flow through in the next several months which could derail when a fix is ultimately able to be achieved.
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 209.249.3544.