More than 20 Bay Area creeks have joined a statewide list of polluted waterways due to major trash problems, but the distinction is unlikely to speed up the cleanup process, according to environmental groups.
The list, adopted by the State Water Resources Control Board last week in Sacramento, makes trash a factor for the first time in determining whether a creek or other water body is considered "impaired" under the federal Clean Water Act.....
In the Bay Area, 24 urban creeks and two portions of San Francisco Bay are officially labeled as trashed. Of those, three are in San Mateo County and seven are in Santa Clara County. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency still needs to approve the listings, which could take several months.
Trash is difficult to regulate. Stormwater moves litter into creeks from sidewalks, parking lots and open trash bins. The listing has no regulatory power and doesn't impose a limit on how much trash can be allowed to enter the Bay, according to Bruce Wolfe, executive officer of the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board.
In every case, however, the fact that a pollutant is carried by stormwater makes it difficult to pin the problem on a specific source.
Many polluters are subject to limits on what they can release into the Bay, but experts say stormwater is the last frontier.
The State Water Resources Control Board has identified seven Santa Clara County creeks as "impaired" under the Clean Water Act because of chronic trash problems:
San Tomas Aquinas Creek
SAN MATEO COUNTY
San Mateo Creek
San Francisquito Creek
The relation to trash, stormwater, and inappropriate development is significant, and something we've followed for years. We'll continue to follow this development as something that will bring attention to a problem that we'd like to see addressed.