by Carolyn Jones from "San Francisco Chronicle" [http://www.sfgate.com/science/article/Coyote-Creek-tops-list-of-dirty-waterways-3858213.php]:
Forget the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. We have our own version right here in the Bay Area.
San Jose's Coyote Creek is so clogged with candy wrappers, diapers, beer bottles, cigarette butts and other debris that, in some spots, one can practically walk across the waterway without getting wet.
The creek, one of the two largest waterways in the South Bay, is likely the dirtiest waterway in the Bay Area and has earned the dubious distinction of making Save the Bay's annual list of "trash hot spots," which the group is to release Wednesday.
"I'm not surprised. There's garbage everywhere in Coyote Creek. Not just garbage, but human waste," said Kate Slama, volunteer coordinator for the Santa Clara Valley Water District, which oversees portions of the creek. "It's incredibly frustrating."
Coyote Creek, along with four other local waterways, was singled out in Save the Bay's sixth annual study of garbage, pollution and San Francisco Bay. The Oakland nonprofit looked at trash data cities are required to report to the state as well as information collected by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and personal visits to the suspected sites.
The other four trashiest waterways are Damon Slough in Oakland, a perennial contender because of its proximity to Oakland's O.co Coliseum; Baxter Creek in Richmond; San Tomas Aquino Creek in Santa Clara; and the Hayward Shoreline.
Notably absent, for the first time in years, was any creek in San Francisco. That's partially because San Francisco, with its merged storm drain and wastewater systems, is not required to report its trash figures, but also because the city has started cracking down on plastic bags, said Save the Bay staff.
Bans on Styrofoam and plastic bags, which several cities and counties around the region have recently enacted, have had a huge impact on the amount of garbage that filters down local creeks into the bay and beyond, said Save the Bay director David Lewis.
But so far, it isn't enough. Litter remains the top source of bay pollution, even more damaging than runoff from refineries and factories, he said.
Trash isn't just an eyesore, it has wide-reaching environmental impacts, he said. Plastic includes tiny pellets that birds and fish mistake for food, eventually killing them. In addition, chemicals in plastic leach into the water and mud, causing problems for plants, insects and other life forms.
The trash should ebb over the next few years, however, as tough new state and federal standards go into effect.
"It's tough to solve some of these problems, but there are small things everyone can do to make it happen," said Jared Blumenfeld, regional administrator for the EPA.
"Small things" means supporting plastic bag bans, bringing reusable bags to the store and, of course, not littering.
But that doesn't explain Coyote Creek. San Jose has some of the strictest plastic bag regulations in the country, with seemingly no effect on its creeks.
The reason is the explosion of homeless encampments along the creek banks, officials said. Since the economy collapsed, the South Bay has seen homelessness soar because of cuts to social services and unemployment.
Coastal Cleanup Day -
On Saturday, Sept. 15, thousands of volunteers are expected to scour beaches, creeks, lakes and wetlands throughout the state, collecting trash. For information, go to www.coastal.ca.gov/publiced/ccd/ccd.html