Street trash washed into Lake Merritt, Oakland CA 21 November, 2018

Click the words above “Street trash washed into Lake Merritt…” to see this entire post.

The day before Thanksgiving was the first big rain of 2018.

People who study rivers, urban blight as well as surfers call this first big rain the “First Flush”.

The rain rinses the smog, plastic, cigarette butts, urine, oil, feces and all manner of other items off the streets of our cities into creeks, rivers, storm drains and eventually the ocean. The same ocean that has been feeding us for millenia

The same ocean we are destroying with our trash.

For three years now I’ve made sure to be at Lake Merritt in Oakland CA for the first flush.

Why?

Because I learned that it is where at least 62 storm drain pipes, fed by hundreds (thousands?) of storm drains feed water and what it washes from the streets, into Lake Merritt. Actually Estuary Merritt, since it is connected to San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean and the world’s oceans.

For the past decade I’ve been packing trash off the beaches of Point Reyes Seashore. Among all the other garbage I pick up are needles. Syringes. Sharps.

I’ve picked up perhaps 150 during that time. Enough that I no longer walk barefoot on beaches.

For a couple years, when I saw families out to enjoy the beach in the winter (when the needles usually show up), I would sometimes quietly explain to parents on Drakes or Limantour Beach that they might want to be careful and keep an eye on their children, as I find hypodermic syringes on this beach in the winter.

This suggestion was usually met with wide eyes and thanks.

More than several times, after their eyes got wide, their faced screwed down tight as they berated me for ruining their only time to get out to the beach with their children.

I no longer warn parents about the needles.

.

Below are images showing what I collected on 21 November over a few hours from one pipe in particular.

You can see what I found in 2017 and 2016 too.

As always, click on an image to see a larger version. Please contact me if you wish to use any of my images in any way. All images ©Richard James – coastodian.org

.

.

Yellow pollen washed off the streets paints an oddly beautiful sheen on the surface, pocked with garbage from humans.

.

.

Shortly after I arrived in the morning, this was how much debris had arrived.

.

A pair of hungry snowy egrets perches atop the oil containment boom installed twenty years ago. Imagine if when you went to the market to shop for food, the vegetable section was littered with garbage, bags of feces and syringes.

.

.

As the rain kept falling, washing more debris from the streets of Oakland, the debris piled up.

.

Toni was out for a jog this rainy day. After she learned what I was doing, she asked if she could help. Of course I said, explaining she had to BE VERY CAREFUL.
She used a second litter-grabber I had, got on hands and knees and plucked out 15-20 needles. Stopping only when she was shivering too much. She thanked me for caring (I thanked her too) then jogged off in the rain.

.

45 minutes later, warmed from her run, she starting plucking needles out again, stopping only when she again started shivering too much to be able to hold the grabber. THANK YOU Toni!

.

.

.

A passerby told me the orange sandals are issued to inmates at Santa Rita jail.

.

Blue and pink plastic vials of sterile water or saline (called bullets on the street) are given to IV drug users by needle exchange programs to mix with whatever it is they plan to inject themselves with. It would appear the needle exchange model is not working given all these lost needles endangering our community and ocean.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

This sleeping bag weighed over 100 pounds when I carefully pulled it out of the water to drip dry. There were six needles on or in it, good thing I know what to expect when dealing with trash around the East Bay.

.

.

.

Impact of homeless camps and illegal dumping in Oakland CA – June/July 2018

Click the words above “Impact of homeless camps and illegal dumping in Oakland CA…” to see this entire post.

Below images show the area known as “The Village” at East 12th Street and 23rd Avenue

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Blaming one person is not the path forward

.

Below images show illegal dumping on Rockport street near East Creek Slough

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Below images show area around Lake Merritt

.

This syringe was not very far from a little girl feeding geese and other children playing on the grass

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Impact of homeless camps around Lake Merritt – March/April 2018

Click the words above “Impact of homeless camps…” to see this entire post.

Below are images showing the huge impact on our environment from homeless living around Lake Merritt.

Most everything you see debris-wise in Oakland, I find washed up on the beaches of Marin, Point Reyes Seashore and elsewhere.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Children’s Fairyland across the way, not so fairy-like in foreground

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Street trash washed into Lake Merritt, Oakland CA 16 November, 2017

Click the words above “Street trash washed into Lake Merritt…” to see this entire post.

Having learned that it is much more useful to stop the flow of trash into the ocean than it is to walk the shore picking up after everyone else, I’ve been visiting Lake Merritt in Oakland the past few years to try to turn off that trash tap.

If you’ve ever visited Oakland, you’ve seen, among other things, people living everywhere – on sidewalks, under bridges, in bushes along the roads, all around Lake Merritt. You’ve also seen streets and waterways filled with trash – EVERYWHERE.

I learned what happens during the first big rain event of each season, as well as that there are 62 storm drains carrying water (and everything else) from the streets of downtown Oakland into Lake Merritt (actually an estuary, connected to SF Bay). See what I saw on my first visit in October of 2016 here.

People play, boat, swim, defecate, urinate, bath, shave in Lake Merritt. Birds and fish live and feed in Lake Merritt. A very sad situation.

Today I read in a local paper of the latest effort to help these people living in horrid conditions off the street and into permanent housing. Read about that here.

Instead of chasing homeless people from camp to camp, city to city, it seems to me to make more sense that all the different cities, Caltrans, BART, Union Pacific etc. work together, share the cost and make a long term commitment to help these folks find a safer place to live that is not so damaging to the environment.

At the rate we are destroying our oceans with our plastic and other trash, WE MUST stop polluting the sea. This problem will not go away simply by pushing it in to some other person’s view.

I am working to connect the above mentioned groups and encourage them to work together to develop a long-term, regional solution.

Below you can see what Lake Merritt looked like on the “first flush” of 2017.

As always, click on an image to see a larger version. Please contact me if you wish to use any of my images in any way.

.

Street trash washed into Lake Merritt on 16 November, 2017

.

.

How many needles can you count?

.

Ducks feed in Lake Merritt, amongst so much trash and human feces.

.

.

Street trash washed into Lake Merritt on 16 November, 2017

.

Coots feeding amongst street trash washed into Lake Merritt on 16 November, 2017

.

Street trash washed into Lake Merritt on 16 November, 2017

.

Street trash washed into Lake Merritt on 16 November, 2017

.

Street trash washed into Lake Merritt on 16 November, 2017

.

Street trash washed into Lake Merritt on 16 November, 2017

.

Street trash washed into Lake Merritt on 16 November, 2017

.

How many needles can you count?

.

Cormorants feed in Lake Merritt on 16 November, 2017

.

Coots feeding amongst street trash washed into Lake Merritt on 16 November, 2017

.

.

Street trash washed into Lake Merritt on 16 November, 2017

.

Oakland’s Lake Merritt – first flush on 16 October, 2016

Click on the words above “Oakland’s Lake Merritt – first flush on 16 October, 2016” to see this entire post.

.

Being somewhat learned about trash, and less so about water, I called the guys at the boat store where I buy my kayaks in Oakland, California Canoe & Kayak last October just as a huge storm was bearing down on us.

“Where will I find the trash.” I asked?

“Lake Merritt!” , was the reply, without hesitation.

So off I went, cameras, umbrella and rain gear packed.

Not only does the first big rain of the year make roads slick with oil, it also scours the streets and drains of all the trash left by humans in the wrong place, carrying it towards the sea. Or, in this case, Lake Merritt.

The inlets that bring storm drain run off from the streets of Oakland to Lake Merritt are swirling pools of detritus.

Imagine walking 4 miles down South Beach after a storm, compressed into three-hundred square feet.

This is where much of the 8.5 million tons of plastic that we humans dump into the oceans each year (and growing) comes from.

We need to fix this. Soon.

Maybe TOTUS (Twit Of The United States) has some answers on how to make Lake Merritt fabulous again?

Sure glad Tomales Bay looks nothing like this.

IMPORTANT : Go here to read an excellent story by Lindsey Howshaw at KQED titled “Trashy Bay: Has Oakland Really Cleaned Up Its Act?

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.