Welcome to summer in the Bay Area: the fog is rolling, the Bay is crowded with windsurfers, swimmers and sailors, visitors fill tour boats and residents are flocking to shoreline parks and beaches for picnics and playtime. Summertime gives us all a chance enjoy recreation on or near the Bay. At this time of year, I am often asked, “Is it safe to play in the Bay?” And my response is always, “Yes – sometimes.”
San Francisco Baykeeper just announced its intent to enforce the Clean Water Act against the Town of Hillsborough and the Burlingame Hills area of San Mateo County for sewage spills. A recently completed investigation of the Hillsborough and Burlingame Hills sewer systems revealed that these poorly maintained and operated systems suffer from high rates of spills to nearby creeks and the Bay, and are contributing to the City of Burlingame’s illegal sewage discharges into San Francisco Bay near the Coyote Point recreation area.
The California Coastkeeper Alliance (CCKA), a coalition of 12 Waterkeeper groups spanning the coast from the Oregon border to San Diego, and San Francisco Baykeeper today called on the U.S. Coast Guard and the State of California’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response to work with the public and lawmakers to improve oil spill preparedness and response in the San Francisco Bay Area and around the state. CCKA and Baykeeper spoke in response to the U.S. Coast Guard’s release today of its Phase II Incident Specific Preparedness Review (ISPR) Report on the M/V Cosco Busan oil spill.
I have a fairly standard morning routine: I shower, wash my hair and apply moisturizer, then have breakfast. It’s an average morning that I am sure is similar to many people’s – but I’m guessing that few of us consider our morning routines to have a direct impact on local water quality. When I leave the house to catch BART, I leave behind traces of my routine. My body did not absorb all of the caffeine that was in my coffee, and the shampoo, conditioner and moisturizer I used washed down the drain, where it will eventually reach the Bay.
A federal judge has invalidated a water plan that would have allowed more pumping from the San Francisco Bay Delta at the expense of five species of protected salmon and steelhead trout. Fishing and conservation groups and a California tribe called the ruling a victory for the millions of Californians who depend on the delta for drinking water, fishing jobs and agriculture. The ruling comes in the wake of federal fisheries managers’ unprecedented April 10 decision to cancel this year’s salmon fishing season because of a record decline in spawning fish.
Bay Area storm drains tie into our creeks and empty into the Bay without any treatment or filtering. So when it rains, the cigarette butts, automotive fluids, pet waste, household gardening chemicals, and trash accumulated in gutters is washed into local creeks and the Bay. In fact, polluted rainwater accounts for the largest source of pollution to the Bay. Any material or substance left exposed to the elements can be carried into our waterways by stormwater.
On January 31, heavy rains and operator error caused an overflow of sewage at a treatment plant in Marin County. More than 2.7 million gallons of partially treated sewage spilled out of the plant and into Corte Madera Creek, which flows into Richardson Bay. This was the second spill to occur in one week; only six days earlier, the same sewage treatment plant discharged another 2.5 million gallons of sewage when it was overwhelmed by heavy rains. Sewage spills carry not only bacteria and disease, but industrial chemicals as well.
Today the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on the case surrounding the Exxon Valdez oil spill. In 1987, the tanker Exxon Valdez spilled tens of millions of gallons of Alaskan crude oil into Prince William Sound. The Court will hear arguments from Exxon about why it should not have to pay the $5 billion liability award imposed by an Anchorage jury in 1994. The High Court’s decision is relevant for oil spill prevention and cleanup in San Francisco Bay.
Environmental groups today challenged the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Board’s flawed regulation of dairy operations in the Central Valley. The Regional Board recently issued permits that do not adequately protect the Valley’s waterways from pollution caused by large dairy operations and do not comply with the federal Clean Water Act.