Bay Crossings Article

Ten Tips for a Healthy Bay

Deb Self, Executive Director
From the April 2010 edition of Bay Crossings

Small changes in our daily lives can make a big impact on the health of San Francisco Bay. You can help prevent sewage spills, reduce stormwater pollution and reduce the amount of toxic chemicals that enter the Bay by following these basic pollution prevention tips around your home.

In Your Home

  • Don’t pour fats, oils and grease down the drain. When leftover oil and grease are poured down the drain, it can clog sewer pipes and lead to sewage spills in the Bay. Instead, wipe oily pots and pans with a paper towel or put excess grease into a can, and put it in the trash. Take large quantities of oils and grease to a collection site. Visit for locations.
  • Don’t use toxic products in your household and yard. Limit your purchase and use of harsh chemical cleaning products and of paint, pesticides and fertilizers that contain hazardous chemicals. Instead, buy less toxic alternatives or make your own natural cleaners. Find guides on less toxic gardening, pest control and home cleaning methods at
  • Don’t pour hazardous products down the drain or into street gutters. Once they enter the sewer system, many hazardous chemicals used in commercial cleaning and yard products end up in the Bay, harming fish, birds and other wildlife. Always take toxic household and yard products to a hazardous waste collection facility. Visit for locations.
  • Don’t put unwanted medications down the sink or toilet. When medications like antibiotics, anti-depressants and birth control are flushed down the toilet, they aren’t always removed by the wastewater treatment process. These pharmaceuticals persist in the environment, altering the natural state of the Bay and endangering aquatic life and people that are exposed to the drugs in Bay waters. Take unused medication to a proper disposal facility or place them in a sealed container in the trash. Visit to find a collection site in your area.
  • Reduce your use of products containing the chemical triclosan. Triclosan is an antibacterial agent linked to serious human health problems and is toxic to aquatic life. Check the labels of products like toothpaste, soaps, detergents and deodorant, and opt for versions that don’t contain triclosan. For a list of products containing triclosan, see the triclosan factsheet at

In Your Yard and Driveway

  • Practice Bay-friendly car maintenance. When you wash your car in your driveway or street, harmful chemicals flow into storm drains and end up in the Bay. Instead, take your car to a car wash facility where the water is diverted to a wastewater treatment plant. Check your car regularly for leaks – oil and gas leaks leave residues on the road that will eventually be flushed into the Bay.
  • Reuse rainwater. Reduce your water consumption and stormwater pollution to the Bay by capturing rainwater in cisterns or buckets outside your home for reuse later. Learn more at the stormwater management section of
  • Plant a rain garden. Direct the rainwater from your roof, driveway and walkways to a garden containing native, drought-resistant plants. A rain garden absorbs rainwater and breaks down pollutants naturally instead of allowing polluted water to flow to the Bay. For instructions on how to build one, visit

In Your Community

  • Help your city build Bay-friendly sewage and stormwater systems. Learn more about the stormwater and sewer systems where you live, and support funding increases for infrastructure repairs and upgrades. It’s important that we invest in maintaining effective storm drains and sewer pipes in order to reduce pollution to the Bay. You can find your local stormwater program at the Bay Area Stormwater Management Agencies Association website,
  • Become a supporter of San Francisco Baykeeper. We’ve been the Bay’s pollution watchdog since 1989, enforcing clean water laws and holding polluters accountable. Support a clean and healthy Bay for all by making a contribution today.