Baxter Creek is getting a bad reputation
on September 16, 2011
Baxter Creek in Richmond received some negative attention this week after it was highlighted on Save the Bay’s list of most polluted creeks in the Bay Area.
But while the creek has a history of pollution problems, a considerable amount of conservation work has made many portions of it cleaner than other creeks in the Bay Area, said Juliana Gonzalez, Healthy Watersheds Program Manager of The Watershed Project.
The creeks on Save the Bay’s list were chosen to highlight creeks in five areas where there are plastic bag ordinances under consideration: Richmond, Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose, and San Carlos. And the five featured creeks were part of a broader list of more than 200 creeks in the Bay Area considered “heavily impacted by trash,” Gonzalez said.
Styrofoam and plastic bags are a major source of trash pollution of waterways in the Bay Area. The Watershed Project assesses the trash it finds during cleanup efforts on various portions of Baxter Creek, Wildcat Creek and San Pablo Creek.
The Watershed Project finds during their cleanup events that plastic bags, Styrofoam pieces, fast food items and cigarette butts are the most commonly littered items in Bay Area creeks, accounting for the vast majority of trash, Gonzalez said.
Since plastic bags are such commonly littered items, conservation groups are advocating bans across the state, and on Tuesday the Richmond City Council elected to join with a West Contra Costa County agency to work on a local ban.
“Plastic is a real concern; it breaks down into small pieces that wildlife mistakes for food, clogs our drains, and litters our wetlands,” said Allison Chan, a policy associate at Save the Bay.
Ten years ago, Baxter Creek at Brooker T. Anderson Park was one of the most littered places on a creek in the Bay Area. But thanks to conservation efforts, The Watershed Project now uses that site as an outdoor classroom for students to learn about the environment.
There is even a volunteer from the community who vigilantly cleans an area of the creek that was previously highlighted as heavily polluted.
“There is really no trash to clean,” Gonzalez said. “He is really good and does it everyday.”
The two other sites that The Watershed Project works on are at the segment of Baxter Creek near the bay that is routinely cleaned during the Coastal Cleanup annual event and other smaller efforts.
The section of Baxter Creek that runs though the El Cerrito Gateway, at the end of the Ohlone greenway, is also monitored and cleaned by a local volunteer.
The biggest problem for Baxter Creek is at San Pablo Avenue near the Taco Bell, where plastics and Styrofoam cups and plates build up. But since many portions of Baxter Creek are monitored and cleaned on a regular basis, there is not much of a build-up of trash in the watershed, like there is for other creeks that have numerous sites of contamination, according to Gonzalez.
All 200 polluted creeks, including Baxter Creek, Wildcat Creek, and San Pablo Creek, were identified by the cities themselves in accordance with their Municipal Regional Storm Permits. Cities are required to identify the dirtiest creeks and construct a long-term cleaning plan, which is monitored by the Bay Area Water Quality Control Board.
Now that the creeks are highlighted and have garnered some public attention, Save the Bay has asked people to go to their website and cast a vote for one of the five creeks. The creek that gets the most votes in a month will receive a thorough cleaning from Save the Bay volunteers.
To vote, or for more information: http://www.savesfbay.org/baytrash/vote-now
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