March Great Story by Liya Klingenberg, Central Coast Water Fellow

Caring for the waterways in San Luis Obispo has been a rewarding part of my CivicSpark service year. Over the past five months, I’ve had the opportunity to survey many of the tributaries in the SLO watershed, giving me a broad picture of one problem that is very prevalent. There is a great abundance of trash clogging nearly all the waterways, creating not only a threat to wildlife, but also an eyesore for the City itself. There are pollutants you can’t see like heavy metals, nitrogen, and phosphate, and then there are the ones you can, such as plastics, styrofoam, and other garbage. The trash debris that is visible from the water’s surface we call “floatables”. In early March, my co-fellow and I, along with our supervisor and another Americorps member, were tasked with clearing one such debris jam of floatables in a section of San Luis Obispo Creek. In just over one hour of work, we were able to capture 11 large garbage bags full of trash. A few days later we emptied the bags and tallied what we collected. From this data analysis, we were able to put together a picture of how much of the garbage ends up in the creek. Some of it comes from homeless camps, some from dog parks, and other debris comes from neighborhood streets or physically thrown into the creek.

A brief rundown of what we collected: 310 plastic bottles, 131 toy balls, 68 glass bottles, 53 aerosol cans, and countless pieces of styrofoam.