What is P2 Week and What Does it Mean?

Every year, Pollution Prevention week, also known as “P2 Week,” is held every third week of September. For the SFPUC, this means another opportunity to educate the community about doing their part in reducing or preventing pollutants in the environment.

The SFPUC’s Pollution Prevention Program​ aims to reduce the amount of pollutants entering the City’s combined sewer system and surrounding waterways by controlling their source. The Pollution Prevention Program utilizes public education, outreach and legislation to tackle specific pollutants that cause issues for the SFPUC’s treatment plants, are toxic to humans and harmful to aquatic ecosystems. A few examples of pollutants that the SFPUC has created programs for are pesticides and mercury.

A photo of a clean catch basin.
A dirty catch basin could lead to polluted and clogged sewers.

For the SFPUC, an important reminder is that what goes down the drain can be taxing to the City’s sewer system and treatment plants. Flushable wipes that should not be flushed down the toilet get caught in hard-to-reach places and damage treatment plant equipment; medicines thrown down drains and flushed down toilets dissolve and end up in biosolids (treated solid portion of wastewater) or effluent (treated liquid portion of wastewater); fats, oils and grease clog our pipes and cause foul odors and sewage backups – all costing the SFPUC time, money and resources to repair. The Agency’s mission is to protect public health and the environment, and what enters the sewer system is its responsibility.

Most of San Francisco is served by a combined sewer system – where sanitary sewage from​ homes and businesses, as well as stormwater (runoff that carries debris from streets, sidewalks and rooftops), is combined and transported to a wastewater treatment plant. But, removing pollutants during the treatment process can be costly, challenging, and isn’t always doable. In areas where the sewer system is separate – when stormwater is not transported to a treatment plant but flows through storm drains directly to the Bay or ocean, it is even more important to prevent pollution at the source.

An example of waste pollution and trash disposal at the beach. Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons.

Pollution Prevent also affects individuals. Some of what goes down the drain ends up in the San Francisco Bay or Pacific Ocean – litter can blight an otherwise beautiful coastline, microplastics bioaccumulate in fish that residents eat, and pesticides linger in water ready to circle back to the community.

There are many ways to help make a difference both during Pollution Prevent Week and throughout the year.

  • Follow @SFWater on social media to keep up with Pollution Prevention Week events, potential giveaways and daily tips for pollution prevention from September 16 to 22.
  • Volunteer for Coastal Cleanup Day on Saturday, September 21st to help remove trash from Islais Creek while bonding with the SFPUC and helping SF beat Oakland in the Battle for the Bay Challenge! Sign up for Team SFPUC here.
  • Sign up for a workshop at Garden for the Environment and learn about urban composting, sustainable gardening or beekeeping, to name a few.
  • Choose reusable dishes and utensils and remember to bring your own water bottle, coffee cup and shopping bag wherever you go.

Pollution Prevent Week happens from Monday, September 16 to Sunday, September 22.

Baker Beach in San Francisco.
Sutro Baths in San Francisco.