Tracking California’s Trash – A New Project to Help Municipalities with Regional and Statewide Trash Reduction Requirements
Through the recent adoption of the statewide “Trash Amendments” and NPDES permit requirements in specific regions, California water quality regulators have mandated that trash discharged from city, county and CalTrans stormwater systems be significantly reduced in an effort to protect local waterways. In response, public agencies have begun or are planning to implement significant new and enhanced management actions that are designed to reduce the generation or transport of trash in stormwater. There are two general approaches to controlling trash in stormwater: 1) Track One - installing trash "full-capture" systems certified by the State Board and designed to intercept trash in the storm drain system; and 2) Track Two – implementing other types of controls such as enhancing institutional BMPs (e.g., street sweeping and storm drain cleaning), improving garbage containment and transport, and adopting ordinances that reduce the generation of litter-prone items. For control measures that fall into “track two”, there is a lack of information on the effectiveness of these actions in reducing trash discharges, and therefore monitoring is required by the statewide amendments and NPDES permits to verify their performance in comparison to full capture systems. The State Board funded Tracking California’s Trash project is currently attempting to improve our collective knowledge about the effectiveness of stormwater controls designed to resolve trash impacts on creeks, lakes, estuaries and the Pacific Ocean. Specifically, the project is coordinated by the Bay Area Stormwater Management Agencies Association (BASMAA) in collaboration with Bay Area and Los Angeles region municipalities and the 5 Gyres Institute, and includes three elements that are currently underway: 1) Develop practical and repeatable on-land visual trash assessment and receiving water monitoring methods to evaluate progress over time; 2) Establish street sweeping performance standards equivalent to full capture systems; and 3) Develop a new statewide trash reduction web-portal that provides a public interface for viewing and querying information on the levels of trash generation in specific land areas, the location and outcomes of hotspot cleanup events, and the location and various types of control measures. This presentation will provide a overview of this important 3-year project, describe lessons learned to-date, and share the implications of project findings with attendees with regard to complying with state and regional mandates to significantly reduce trash in stormwater discharges in California.