water pollution

Rain Washes Trash, Debris Into Local Waterways

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This week's storm delivered much-needed rain to the Bay Area, but those rains washed trash and debris into local waterways, which could leave some areas at greater risk during the next storm.

In the South Bay, trash lines creeks and rivers. Environmentalists say most of it was washed away from homeless encampments.

"The scary thing is it's going down the waterway and getting to the bay," Steve Holmes with the South Bay Clean Creeks Coalition said. "So, this is a huge pollution problem."

It can also be a flooding problem. Experts partially blame trash from encampments for clogging other local waterways and triggering past flooding.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Santa Clara Valley Water District says it hasn’t been able to clean encampments since the spring.

"It does hinder," Jennifer Codianne with the water district said. "For the safety of both our staff and the homeless during the pandemic, we've asked that staff stay 100 feet away from active encampment areas. So, it does hinder what we can do, unfortunately."

In a normal year, the water district says it clears about 1,000 tons of debris from local creeks and rivers.

The South Bay Clean Creeks Coalition says its volunteers have gathered another 1 million pounds since the group was formed.

"It isn’t getting any better," Holmes said. "This is not something that we can clean our way around."

Holmes' group is pushing for more transitional housing for the homeless but also wants to see a buffer between the encampments and the creek beds to keep garbage and waste from washing into the waterways.

"One way to sort of push this thing to the next level would be for us to stop doing the cleanups," Holmes said.

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