Forty years after Congress passed the Clean Water Act — a landmark law sparked in part by the work of Bay Area environmentalists — five local waterways identified by Oakland nonprofit Save the Bay are so cluttered with trash that they’re in violation of federal law.
It’s a sad bit of irony highlighted by the organization’s sixth-annual Bay Trash Hot Spots awards, to be officially bestowed this morning from 11 a.m. to noon at a media event featuring EPA Regional Administrator Jared Blumenfeld and Save the Bay Executive Director David Lewis.
So where are the lucky winners? Well, three are in the East Bay, including two from last year’s list: East Oakland’s Damon Slough, frequently clogged with litter from the O.Co Coliseum and Oracle Arena parking lots as well as its highly urban watershed; and Richmond’s Baxter Creek, which flows from the Berkeley Hills in El Cerrito to the Bay at Stege Marsh, picking up trash along the way. The third East Bay hot spot is along the Hayward Shoreline near the terminus of W. Winton Avenue, an area where industry butts up against salt marsh.
The other two waterways on this year’s list are Coyote Creek in San Jose and San Tomas Aquino Creek in Santa Clara.
“Every day throughout the Bay Area, plastic bags, cigarette butts, Styrofoam containers, and other toxic trash wash into storm drains, travel through urban waterways, and pollute the Bay,” Save the Bay said in a press release announcing the sites. “Trash is the main component of urban runoff, the single largest source of Bay pollution. Debris from urban storm drains flows into the Bay and through the Golden Gate to join the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a soup of trash and plastic particles covering hundreds of miles of ocean.”
The accumulated litter also impacts local wildlife by introducing toxics and choking hazards — especially when mistaken for food, as plastics bits often are by birds and fish — into delicate ecosystems already burdened by other stressors including habitat loss, invasive species, and climate change.
Save the Bay has called for the public to help remove litter from these five locations on September 15, designated Coastal Cleanup Day by the California Coastal Commission.
Save the Bay also uses its Bay Trash Hot Spots list to garner support for bans and fees on plastic bags and Styrofoam containers. The organization played a critical role in developing a plastic-bag ban in Alameda County that takes effect on January 1, 2013.