Preventing a Toxic Wave of Industrial Pollution

Dec 9, 2019

More than 1,600 industrial facilities around the Bay use and store heavy metals, synthetic chemicals, fuels, and hazardous waste in outdoor areas. With each passing day, these toxic materials accumulate on surfaces and structures around the sites.

When the first big storms of the rainy season hit, the built-up contamination washes off in toxic waves—often flowing directly to the Bay or indirectly through drains leading to creeks and rivers. 

One example was the Shamrock concrete production facility in San Rafael. The facility lies next to San Rafael Creek, which flows to the Bay. Baykeeper’s 2015 investigation revealed that the site had been releasing runoff with heavy metals and alkalinity, creating toxic conditions that could harm fish and birds.

So Baykeeper took legal action. Once Shamrock realized our goal was to help the company comply with the law, our scientists and lawyers worked with their team to devise a plan to keep the site’s polluted runoff out of the Bay.

Just in time for the season’s first major storms, Shamrock recently finished installing their new pollution controls.

Now, when it rains, Shamrock collects the water falling on the site into large storage tanks and re-uses it or sends it to the local wastewater treatment plant, rather than letting the toxic water flow into the Bay. With this solution, the facility is protecting the Bay from contamination while also conserving significant amounts of water.

This is just one successful result of Baykeeper’s systematic campaign to identify and clean up the Bay Area’s worst industrial polluters. We've compelled 45 harmful sites to set up runoff controls and treatment systems to reduce toxic industrial pollution to the Bay (see map below).

We'll continue to keep an eye on industrial facilities throughout the Bay Area, to make the rainy season healthier for San Francisco Bay and its wildlife.

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