One creek in San Mateo and another in South San Francisco are packed so full of garbage that both may be designated by federal officials as trash-impacted waterways — a label that could prove costly for each city.
The creeks are included on an annual list by Save the Bay, a nonprofit organization that works to protect and restore the San Francisco Bay. The list highlights 23 trash-polluted waterways that drain directly into the Bay and may be in violation of the Clean Water Act.
Waterways in the group’s third annual Bay Trash Hot Spots list could be placed under federal regulation, obligating the cities to take measures to clean them up — or face state sanctions.
The state’s Regional Water Quality Control Board may be investigating both San Mateo Creek and Colma Creek, said David Lewis, executive director of Save the Bay.
San Mateo Creek runs from near Crystal Springs Reservoir to the Bay. Colma Creek runs from San Bruno Mountain through South San Francisco, past San Francisco International Airport and into the Bay.
None of the 23 sites is in San Francisco, a fact that may be partly attributable to The City’s ban on plastic bags and Styrofoam containers, Lewis said. He said San Francisco is also one of the few cities in the Bay Area with a storm-runoff system that filters trash. Most cities’ storm runoff dumps straight into creeks or the Bay.
As it stands, only one site in the Bay Area has been designated a trash-impacted waterway: Lake Merritt in Oakland, said Richard Looker, a water-resource control manager for the state’s Water Quality Board.
After the label was imposed in 1998, the city of Oakland was forced to clean up the creeks and waterways that dump into Lake Merritt, including installing systems that filtered trash from storm water.
Trash causes three main problems for the environment, Looker said: it impacts human experience of a waterway — perhaps decreasing the number of people who want to visit a creek or a beach; it can cause problems for wildlife in the creek; and it continues to cause problems for sea life when it reaches the Bay and is funneled into the ocean.
The list of 23 sites was released by Save the Bay in advance of its Coastal Cleanup Day event Saturday.
Lewis said it’s surprising and disappointing that the Bay Area has not made more progress in reducing the amount of trash that reaches the Bay.
“Even Los Angeles is making more progress than we are,” he said. “We shouldn’t be behind Los Angeles.”
1. Cerrito Creek in El Cerrito
2. Coyote Creek in San Jose
3. Saratoga Creek in Saratoga
4. Colma Creek in South San Francisco
5. Guadalupe River in San Jose
6. Rindler Creek in Vallejo
7. Baxter Creek in El Cerrito and Richmond
8. Sausal Creek in Oakland
9. Damon Slough in Oakland
10. Strawberry Creek in Berkeley
11. San Pablo Creek in San Pablo
12. Petaluma River in Petaluma
13. San Tomas Aquino Creek in Santa Clara
14. Silver Creek in San Jose
15. Kirker Creek in Pittsburg
16. Grayson Creek in Martinez
17. San Mateo Creek in San Mateo
18. Permanente Creek in Los Altos
19. Cordonices Creek in Berkeley
20. Stevens Creek in Mountain View
21. Matadero Creek in Palo Alto
22. San Francisquito Creek in Palo Alto
23. San Leandro Creek in San Leandro
Source: Save the Bay