Water Board stays strong on trash in 2014

Trash from our city streets flow into storm drains, which empty directly into the Bay.
Trash from our city streets flow into storm drains, which empty directly into the Bay. Photo: Samantha Marx

Happy 2014!  We have a lot to look forward to this year at Save The Bay, including a big milestone in the regional effort to keep trash out of our waterways: by July, cities and counties must show that they have reduced the amount of trash flowing into their storm drains by 40 percent.  As we neared the end of 2013, some questions around this requirement remained — How will we know if cities have achieved a 40 percent reduction?  What information are they required to make public?  Will the SF Bay Water Board allow cities extra time to comply?

At their December meeting, the Water Board addressed these questions with a clear message to cities: stick with the timeline and show us data confirming that you are reducing trash.  Over the past three years, several jurisdictions have made strong efforts to prevent trash from flowing into the Bay, including San Mateo County’s nearly countywide plastic bag ban, San Jose’s Clean Creeks, Healthy Communities project, and the installation of hundreds of full trash capture devices in storm drains throughout the region.  But some municipalities are falling dangerously behind this standard, hiding behind vaguely defined actions and sharing very little data. Whether they have already implemented programs or are dragging their feet, Bay Area cities and counties have until July to achieve major trash reductions.

And for those of us who like numbers, they will be available – the Water Board is requiring cities and counties to monitor their curbs, creeks, and storm drains and submit data demonstrating that their efforts are having a significant impact on trash.  Are trash capture devices in the best locations?  Are street sweepers catching everything?  Have illegal dumping sites been addressed?  Are trash haulers effectively securing their loads?  We look forward to this “progress report” on trash reduction in the Bay Area.

But what we’re really excited about is that by mid-summer, there should be noticeably less trash in our creeks, along the shoreline, and in the Bay.

Have you already seen improvements in your community?  Leave a comment and tell us about it.