Baykeeper Update

Proposed Controls Won’t Keep Trash out of the Bay

Cities need to use direct capture measures to reduce the amount of trash in our waterways—not plastic bag bans and ineffective education programs, Baykeeper recently told regulators.

Baykeeper has analyzed new plans from the Bay Area Stormwater Management Agencies Association (BASMAA) for reducing the trash that washes into the Bay during the rainy season. We found that most have little chance of reducing trash in Bay Area waterways.

Cities are planning to rely primarily on retail bans of products such as plastic bags—which haven’t been proven to be a major source of Bay trash—and on anti-littering education programs similar to campaigns that have gone on for decades with little impact.

While such efforts can help reduce litter, they aren’t nearly effective enough to significantly reduce the total amount of trash entering Bay Area waterways. Instead, cities should be required to use more effective prevention methods, including the widespread installation of trash capture devices, drain inlet screens and floating booms to catch floating trash. In Southern California, tens of thousands of such devices have been deployed with impressive results.

To deal with trash that can’t be prevented from entering local creeks, sloughs, storm drains and the Bay, cities must encourage and support shoreline cleanups and debris removal events.

Baykeeper urged the Regional Water Quality Control Board to require these more stringent measures. City governments are under new requirements to eliminate by 2022 the trash carried by storm water that now litters Bay shorelines and clogs surrounding creeks. In 2009, Baykeeper helped secure the region-wide municipal storm water controls that mandate this trash reduction, and now we’re helping ensure the effective implementation of these controls.

BASMAA’s proposed trash reduction plans have additional problems. One is a failure to accurately measure how much trash is now entering the Bay via storm water. Without reliable baseline measurements, it will be impossible to measure progress.

Furthermore, the proposed plans don’t identify the biggest known problem areas, or the specific factors that affect individual cities’ ability to meet trash reduction goals.

Baykeeper advised the Regional Water Quality Control Board to reject the plans and require Bay Area cities to come up with more effective controls that will actually rid the Bay of trash.