The TCT crew. (Image: 5 Gyres)

The TCT crew. (Image: 5 Gyres)

(This blog, written by Carolynn Box, originally appeared on 5 Gyres. It has been reprinted here with permission.)

Last week marks the kickoff of our field work related to the Tracking California’s Trash (TCT) Project! We had a great first field day and an amazing group of people helping out.

We are very excited to be part of the large scale project to understand and prevent trash from entering the Pacific Ocean. The project has multiple partners, including the State Water Resources Control Board, the Bay Area Storm Management Agencies Association (BASMAA), and the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board, along with multiple consulting firms and scientists.

The project is a result of regulatory efforts by the California State Water Resources Control Board that have focused on developing and adopting water body specific Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs), regional NDPES permit requirements, and a statewide Trash Policy to significantly reduce trash impacts. The San Francisco Regional Water Quality Board adopted a regional Phase I NPDES permit in 2009 that requires all permitted municipalities to reduce trash. Trash TMDLs have been put in place in the Los Angeles Area, including many rivers, (Ballona Creek and the LA River are included, which are well known for their trash problems). Reductions of trash entering and flowing in creeks and rivers in the San Francisco Bay and the Los Angeles Area are now required under these regulatory actions, an more cities will be involved once a statewide policy is put in place.


Our goals for the project are to develop methods and guidelines that cities and counties can use to monitor trash that is floating on the surface and within the water columns of large and small creeks and rivers. This data will assist city officials and regulators to better understand if the efforts that have been put in place to reduce trash (through bag and foam bans, increased street sweeping, catchment basins, etc) from entering the marine environment are working.

On Wednesday, March 4th 2015, 5 Gyres completed our first round of sampling at one Bay Area creek near San Francisco.  The research was done during very low flow, approximately 1.7 cubic feet/second, and was mainly to understand and practice deploying our trawls from a bridgeway above the creek. We deployed two different trawls successfully, including the Manta Trawl, usually used in our ocean research, and the Rectangular Trawl, a trawl designed for the project.


With such low flow, we didn’t expect to find much trash, but we definitely found it – cigarette butts, foam bits, wrappers – and we saw much more settled into crevices and on the nearby sidewalk and roads.

When the flow in the creeks increases, we’ll try out the High Speed Trawl and the Mini High Speed Trawl. At this time, we’ve been warned that our samples will fill multiple 55-gallon garbage cans  – !!


Moving forward the project will also monitor two more creeks in the South Bay and one river in the Los Angeles Area. We’ll continue to blog throughout the project and plan to be in the field again in the San Francisco Area in early May. For more information contact TCT Project Manager Carolynn Box ([email protected]) or check out the project website: http://5gyres.org/tct/

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