Providing further proof that trash in San Francisco Bay is a serious pollution threat to people and wildlife, Save The Bay's 5th Annual Bay Trash Hot Spots includes 225 creeks and shoreline areas where cities identified toxic levels of plastic bags, cigarette butts, fast food containers, old tires and more. Trash is a dangerous pollutant that harms wildlife, spoils water quality, threatens public health, and smothers sensitive wetland habitat. Interactive maps showcasing the 225 hot spots can be found at: www.saveSFbay.org/baytrash .
"The staggering number of hot spots underscores the pervasive and growing problem of trash pollution in our waterways and the imperative for Bay Area cities to take the lead in solving this problem," says Save The Bay Chief Strategy Officer Felicia Madsen. "Now for the first time cities are required to stop trash from polluting our great natural treasure."
Save The Bay – San Francisco Bay’s leading champion since 1961 – is urging cities to stop trash at its source by passing bans or fees on commonly littered items such as plastic bags, Styrofoam and cigarette butts, and installing trash capture devices in storm drains to prevent trash from flowing to the Bay and ocean. The community can immediately help clean up many of these hot spots by volunteering on Coastal Cleanup Day this Saturday, September 25.
Save The Bay Launches Contest to Adopt a Hot Spot
Committed to working with volunteers and city agencies to eliminate trash from the Bay, Save The Bay is asking residents to vote for one of seven selected Bay Trash Hot Spots that the nonprofit will “adopt” with a series of volunteer cleanups throughout 2011. The contest sites were chosen based on several criteria, including proximity to heavily-used areas and major transportation corridors, habitat for endangered species, and Clean Water Act violations (note that hot spots are not ranked). Save The Bay encourages Bay Area residents to vote for a hot spot at www.saveSFbay.org/baytrash . The contest sites include Damon Slough in Oakland, the Hayward Regional Shoreline, Mission Creek in Fremont, Coyote Creek in San Jose, the Guadalupe Slough Baylands in Sunnyvale, Redwood Creek in Redwood City and Colma Creek in South San Francisco.
New Water Board Regulations Require Cities to Reduce Trash
In October 2009 the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board (Water Board) issued a revised Municipal Regional Permit requiring certain cities, counties and government agencies to eliminate hundreds of trash hot spots around the Bay. For the first time ever, the permittees are mandated to reduce the amount of trash in their stormwater by 40 percent by 2014 and 70 percent by 2017, with the goal of completely preventing trash and litter from polluting the Bay by 2022. To initiate that process, the Water Board required the permittees to identify a specific number of trash hot spots within their jurisdictions using several methods including data compiled during previous Coastal Cleanup Day events and their own trash assessment surveys.
The Water Board determined the number of hot spots each permittee would have to designate within their jurisdictions based on population or acreage of commercial and retail land area. Flood control and water districts also had to identify hot spots. Santa Clara County has 74 trash hot spots, with Alameda County not far behind with 69 trash hot spots. There are 49 hot spots in Contra Costa County and 31 in San Mateo County. Fairfield, Suisun City and Vallejo are the three Solano County cities that must comply with the Water Board's provisions – they selected a total of 10 trash hot spots. The next step outlined under the new permit is for cities, counties and agencies to establish a baseline level of trash to measure future progress.
"The Water Board's ground-breaking requirements for reducing trash flowing to the Bay are stringent, and we applaud the cities for taking the first steps to identify their hot spots," says Water Board Executive Officer, Bruce Wolfe. "Now we must ensure that the cities – through their reporting and on-the-ground trash control measures – do in fact reach the mandated goals of reducing trash flowing to the Bay."
The Water Board's permit applies to more than 70 cities, counties and agencies in Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo, and Santa Clara counties, as well as the cities of Fairfield, Suisun City, and Vallejo, comprising roughly 72 percent of the population in the Bay Area.
Trash Problem in the Bay
Bay trash is accumulating in massive amounts – choking wetlands, poisoning and entangling Bay animals, harming water quality and threatening public health and our quality of life. Last year on Coastal Cleanup Day over 250,000 pounds of trash and recyclables were pulled from the Bay and its watershed, according to data collected by the over 22,000 volunteers at cleanup events around the Bay. The most common litter items picked up in California last year included cigarette butts, food wrappers and plastic bags. In fact, Save The Bay estimates that more than one million plastic bags pollute the Bay each year. Over the years, Coastal Cleanup Day has evolved into an important means of gathering data; and the types and frequency of litter recorded has proven a valuable measure of the trash problem in the Bay.
“California Coastal Cleanup Day is not just the state’s biggest volunteer event, but also its largest trash data collection effort. The hard work of tens of thousands of volunteers each September provides cities with much needed information on the types and amount of trash littering our coast, bays, and shorelines; and helps provide a clue as to where this trash is coming from,” says Eben Schwartz, Coastal Cleanup Day Director.
More than 500 species of wildlife depend on San Francisco Bay including 23 endangered species such as the California clapper rail and the salt marsh harvest mouse. Bay wetlands provide a protected nursery for newborn fish, birds and other marine animals such as seals and leopard sharks. Trash in the Bay has global ramifications. The North Pacific hosts a floating garbage patch estimated at twice the size of Texas, where plastic particles are more abundant than plankton. Countless seabirds, marine mammals, and fish die annually from eating or getting tangled in marine debris.
Save The Bay is Leading Regional Advocate for Reducing Trash Pollution
Years of sustained advocacy by Save The Bay and our members finally produced an approach that will begin to significantly reduce Bay trash, most of which is plastic debris. Almost 40 community organizations and environmental groups and 20 state and federal legislators joined with Save The Bay in advocating that trash must be regulated like mercury and other urban runoff pollutants. Thus, the Water Board now requires cities to limit the amount of trash reaching the Bay.
As part of its Clean Bay Project, Save The Bay works to help cities meet the Water Board requirements through proactive best practices to stop trash as its source. For example, after advocacy by Save The Bay and its members, the Fremont City Council passed an ordinance banning polystyrene foam (Styrofoam) to-go containers. Save The Bay also worked with San Mateo County, and asked supporters in the area to urge their Board of Supervisors to move forward with a polystyrene ban, prompting the Environmental Quality Committee to recommend the ordinance to the full board. Oakland and Millbrae have already banned Styrofoam and Save The Bay is now working with Hayward and Santa Clara to develop bans on this problem pollutant.
Save The Bay is also assisting cities and counties throughout the region – including the Bay Area's largest city, San Jose, as well as Marin County, Santa Clara, Berkeley and Fremont – to pass landmark legislation to stop the distribution of single-use plastic and paper carryout bags, which will require residents to switch to reusable bags.
Community Volunteer Information for Coastal Cleanup Day:
About Save The Bay
Save The Bay is the largest regional organization working to protect, restore and celebrate San Francisco Bay. As its leading champion since 1961, Save The Bay protects the Bay from pollution and inappropriate shoreline development, making it cleaner and healthier for people and wildlife. We restore habitat and secure strong policies to re-establish 100,000 acres of wetlands that are essential for a healthy Bay. We engage more than 25,000 supporters, advocates and volunteers to protect the Bay, and inspire the next generation of environmental leaders by educating thousands of students annually. www.saveSFbay.org