Baykeeper's E-Newsletter for September 2015

San Francisco Baykeeper E-News
Monthly Update for September 2015
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San Francisco Bay

Volunteer with Baykeeper at Coastal Cleanup Day This Saturday

Take part in the largest volunteer event on the planet! Around the world, people will join together for Coastal Cleanup Day this Saturday to remove debris from their local beaches and waterways.

Volunteer with Baykeeper this Saturday, September 19, 9AM-Noon, at San Francisco's India Basin Shoreline Park.

India Basin is located at Hawes St. and Hunters Point Blvd., along San Francisco Bay's eastern shore, which is disproportionately affected by pollution from trash and debris.

Join Baykeeper staff and volunteers for this family-friendly event. Drop-ins and groups welcome, but advanced registration is greatly appreciated.

Learn more about the cleanup and register to volunteer.

Photo by Robb Most.

Urge Oakland Leaders to Keep Toxic Coal Out of the Bay

Join Baykeeper in opposing coal contamination in San Francisco Bay. On Monday, September 21, Baykeeper and members of a diverse local coalition will urge the Oakland City Council to prohibit the export of coal from a planned Oakland shipping terminal.

If the coal export plan goes through, up to nine million tons of coal would arrive each year in long freight trains from Utah. The trains would shed dust along tracks that run near the San Francisco Bay shoreline and through residential communities.

Coal contains arsenic, lead, and other toxins. According to the rail industry's own calculations, each open coal car loses between 500 and 2,000 pounds of dust and coal during its journey.

Coal trains don't belong on San Francisco Bay's shoreline, or in our neighborhoods. Join Baykeeper and the Sierra Club in saying no to the export of coal from Oakland at the Oakland City Council public hearing, Oakland City Hall, 3rd Floor Council Chambers, Monday, September 21, 3:30 pm.

Learn more about Baykeeper's work to prevent coal contamination of the Bay.

Implosion of Old Bay Bridge Pier Threatens Bay Water Quality

Caltrans' plan to implode the old Bay Bridge's largest underwater pier threatens to pollute San Francisco Bay with dust and debris.

Baykeeper will raise concerns about the proposed blast during public testimony at a Bay Conservation and Development Commission permit hearing today.

Caltrans is proposing implosion of the old span's piers in part because it will be less costly than the original plan involving mechanical methods. Baykeeper Staff Scientist Ian Wren will advocate that the health of the Bay should not be put at risk because of cost over-runs in the new bridge construction process.

Baykeeper will continue monitoring the old Bay Bridge demolition process and will advocate for the best possible safeguards to protect San Francisco Bay and its wildlife.

Photo by Jane Cleland.

Victory! California Legislature Passes Ban on Plastic Microbeads

In a win for a safer San Francisco Bay, the California Legislature recently passed a ban on the sale of consumer products containing plastic microbeads, starting in 2020. San Francisco Baykeeper advocated in support of this legislation, along with our environmental partners, including Clean Water Action and 5 Gyres. Governor Jerry Brown is expected to sign the bill into law.

Microbeads are tiny particles of plastic used in facial scrubs, shampoo, soap, toothpaste, eyeliner, lip gloss, deodorant, and sunblock. When these products are washed down a sink or shower drain, they aren't removed by treatment at a wastewater plant—so they enter San Francisco Bay, where swimmers and wildlife can ingest the toxic particles. Baykeeper research earlier this year found that the Central and South Bays have high levels of microbead contamination.

Many companies are already considering alternatives to microbeads, and may replace plastics in their products before 2020. In the meantime, avoid any personal care product with an ingredient list that includes Polyethylene (PE), Polypropylene (PP), Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET), Polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), or nylon. Safe alternative ingredients include ground apricot shells and cocoa beans.

Learn more about the new state bill to ban microbeads in personal care products.

Photo by Robb Most.

Mystery Goo Identified But Chemical Spills Still Threaten the Bay

The toxic "mystery goo" that was spilled into San Francisco Bay in January, harming hundreds of birds, has finally been identified. State government scientists say it's a polymerized oil similar to vegetable oil.

But the identification of the substance yields no clues about where the spill came from, and no responsible party has been found or held accountable.

When it hit the Bay, the sticky substance coated hundreds of ducks and shorebirds, killing at least 300. California's existing system of oil spill response agencies could not be activated to clean up the chemical and rescue injured birds, because the agencies are funded to respond only to petroleum-based spills.

To remedy this, Baykeeper sponsored state legislation that would have enabled oil spill response agencies to respond to chemical spills, but the bill was killed in May.

That means that if a chemical is spilled or dumped into San Francisco Bay, response will be up to Baykeeper and other nonprofits—just like in January, when we helped coordinate an emergency search and rescue operation for injured birds.

Learn more about the mystery goo spill and the threat of chemical spills in the Bay.

Photo by Cheryl Reynolds, International Bird Rescue.

Progress Protecting the Bay from Drug Pollution

Marin and Santa Clara recently became the latest Bay Area counties to require pharmaceutical manufacturers to develop, implement, and fund safe and convenient programs for unused medication disposal.

Baykeeper worked with our partner Clean Water Action to successfully advocate for passage of the drug take-back ordinances in these counties, and also on last year's law passed in San Francisco. Alameda and San Mateo counties have similar laws. Without such laws, taxpayers must fund safe disposal of pharmaceuticals.

When leftover medications are flushed down the toilet or washed down the sink, they enter the Bay via treated wastewater. Unused drugs thrown in the trash end up in landfills and can leach into the Bay via storm water runoff or groundwater contamination. Levels of medications harmful to fish, seals, and other wildlife have been found in San Francisco Bay.

You can help prevent pharmaceutical pollution in the Bay by taking your unused medications to a proper disposal facility.

Click here for a list of Bay Area sites for safe disposal of unused medications.

Photo by Robb Most.

Pulse of the Bay Report Shows Need for Baykeeper's Efforts to Stop Pollution

The Pulse of the Bay report, just published by the San Francisco Estuary Institute, summarizes the present state of Bay water quality and looks ahead to the possible condition of the Bay 50 years from now.

The report gives fishing in the Bay only a grade of "fair," because Bay fish have high levels of mercury and PCBs, which haven't budged since 1994. Water quality is excellent for swimming at most Bay beaches, but the water is contaminated with pathogens at 7% of beaches in summer and 27% of beaches in wet weather.

These assessments of Bay water quality highlight the need for Baykeeper's direct action to reduce pollution to the Bay. Baykeeper is working to rein in pollution from industrial sites, urban runoff, and sewage treatment plants. These are primary sources of the pollution that contaminates fish and Bay beaches.

The Pulse also envisions a time when wastewater and storm water are used as resources, rather than treated as sources of pollution or flooding that need to be directed into the Bay. Baykeeper is working for the region-wide reuse of rain water and for updated wastewater systems that allow treated wastewater to be reused. This will help keep the Bay clean, make the region more resilient to drought, and reduce strain on our water sources in the Sierras and Delta.

Learn more about The Pulse of the Bay report and the need it shows for Baykeeper's work to protect San Francisco Bay.

Media SharkTank Event Benefits Baykeeper's Work for a Healthy Bay

A big thank you to 10Fold Communications for supporting Baykeeper.

On October 15, 10Fold—formerly Trainer Communications, a full service business-to-business technology public relations agency—brings CEOs and executive spokespersons together to pitch their company's story to a panel of top business and broadcast journalists. The media "sharks" give the CEOs and executives valuable feedback to improve their communications. Registration for the event is open now.

The proceeds from the annual event benefit San Francisco Baykeeper, helping keep San Francisco Bay healthy for fish, birds, seals, and real live sharks.

(Photo at top by Roberto Soncin Gerometta)