Bay gets clean sweep for Earth Day 

A dozen shopping carts and other debris were towed out of the Bay on Thursday by county mosquito abatement personnel using a hovercraft and all-terrain vehicle, as part of an Earth Day cleanup project.

The work, at the mouth of the San Mateo Creek in Ryder Park, will continue today in a joint effort with San Mateo parks staff. City officials had put off hiring an outside contractor for the job, estimated to cost as much as $10,000, citing budget constraints.

But with some of the carts rusting away after three years in the Bay, vector ecologist Chindi Peavey volunteered her department in recognition of Sunday’s holiday.

Walking out on the salt marsh flats is dangerous and requires special equipment, said Gary Esch, San Mateo senior park ranger. To reach the debris, which had been washed about 100 yards into the Bayby winter rain swells from San Mateo Creek, required the mosquito district’s hovercraft and all-terrain vehicle, Peavey said.

"There are places in the salt marshes that look solid, but when you get out, there are deep channels and holes you can get stuck in," Peavey said.

In addition to about 12 shopping carts, two bicycles, metal debris, car tires, a portable stereo and orange traffic cones were all pulled from the Bay within a couple of hours.

Peavey said carts and other debris pushed into local creeks ultimately wash to the Bay and act as breeding habitat for mosquitoes. Some varieties of mosquitoes carry and spread West Nile Virus.

That’s in addition to creating a major eyesore, Esch said. "We’ve received numerous written and verbal complaints asking about what we were going to do something about it."

About 8,000-11,000 stray shopping carts are rounded up in San Mateo annually by wranglers employed by Tom Hargrove, of Sacramento-based Tom’s Rapid Retrieval and Delivery.

Hargrove’s employees began rounding up carts in the city 10 years ago, when San Mateo passed an ordinance requiring stores to present a plan on how they planned to retrieve their lost carts or face a fine.

"It’s a win-win situation because we get the carts picked up, and the stores aren’t replacing the carts at [$120] a pop," said Robert Muehlbauer, San Mateo neighborhood improvement and housing director.

Most carts can be rounded up, steam cleaned and returned to stores without much difficulty, DeMichele said.

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