First rain flushes dirty trash into SF Bay


It’s been a long time since wet weather dominated news headlines in the Bay Area. While we welcome the first significant rainfall in many, there is a dirty truth that accompanies this storm: first flush.

First flush is particularly problematic in the Bay Area because our region is so developed and our roadways are mostly paved over, making it impossible for water to seep back into the ground.  Rainwater moves along pollutants like pesticides, oil from cars, mercury, PCBs, bacteria, and trash. And to make matters worse, trash accumulates in periods of dry weather.

Here in the Bay Area most of the trash in our Bay comes directly from our city streets. It funnels into storm drains and gets flushed into San Francisco Bay, unfiltered.

In 2015, Save The Bay launched the Zero Trash, Zero Excuse campaign against stormwater pollution, broadening the scope of our pollution prevention work. The goal of this campaign was to kickstart a much need conversation about taking care of our Bay by reducing the amount of trash that flows from our streets through storm drains and out into our waterways. More than 1,200 people signed the Zero Trash Pledge!

Today’s rain is a good reminder of why we need to reduce the amount of trash entering storm drains — water from storms flows from our urban streets directly out into the Bay. Toxic trash in our streets — cigarette butts, plastic bags, food containers — are carried along with it, poisoning our local waterways and harming wildlife.

What can you do?

  • Don’t litter — that includes cigarette butts: they’re toxic, plastic trash
  • Move your car on street cleaning days — Street cleaning helps to remove trash and other pollutants
  • Cover your trash cans — Prevent trash from blowing into the street
  • Take the Zero Trash Pledge — Join the regional movement to keep trash out of our Bay

While we are excited for rain, this first storm reminds us there’s a lot of work left to be done to keep toxic pollution from flowing into San Francisco Bay.