Thousands to take to shores for Coastal Cleanup Day 

click to enlarge The Bayfront in Burlingame is one of the 30 locations in San Mateo County where volunteers will participate in the California Coastal Cleanup Day on Saturday. - COURTESY SAN MATEO COUNTYWIDE WATER POLLUTION PREVENTION PROGRAM VIA FLICKR
  • Courtesy San Mateo Countywide Water Pollution Prevention Program via Flickr
  • The Bayfront in Burlingame is one of the 30 locations in San Mateo County where volunteers will participate in the California Coastal Cleanup Day on Saturday.

Tens of thousands of volunteers around the state and on the Peninsula will descend upon local beaches, San Francisco Bay shorelines and inland waterways on Saturday morning to participate in the 30th annual California Coastal Cleanup Day.

Beginning at 9 a.m., participants will scour the areas until noon, removing debris and litter from 850 sites across California, 30 of which are in San Mateo County.

During last year's event, the volunteers removed about 750,000 pounds of trash from around the state, approximately 25,000 pounds of which came from San Mateo County sites.

San Mateo Countywide Water Pollution Prevention Program spokesman Matt Fabry said that while municipalities have reduced environmental impacts by enacting plastic bag and Styrofoam food container bans, as well as installing filters to catch trash in local waterways, the annual cleanup event is still crucial.

Plastic litter that is commonly retrieved during the cleanups does not biodegrade, but breaks down into small pellets that absorb toxins and are then eaten by marine wildlife, he noted. According to the California Department of Public Health, seafood caught in San Francisco Bay has been shown to contain such toxins, which include polychlorinated biphenyls.

Pacifica is one community that has earned a reputation for hosting some of the largest cleanups in the region in recent years, with last year's event drawing between 1,000 and 1,300 volunteers, according to San Mateo County Health System spokeswoman Robyn Thaw. The turnout at Ryder Park in San Mateo may rival those numbers, as that location saw about 1,000 voluznteers last year, Thaw noted.

Pacifica City Councilwoman Sue Digre said the annual event in support of the coastal environment inspires residents and visitors to be better about picking up trash year-round, and the amount of plastic litter found in Pacifica's open spaces has seen a significant reduction in recent years.

However, she said cigarette butts on the beaches are still a big concern, and she is also worried about how people who fish off the Pacifica Pier might be affected by plastic-related toxins entering the marine food chain.

"There are people on that pier for whom that's their dinner," Digre noted.

Pacifica's economic health also depends on keeping beaches clean, because being on the edge of the Pacific Ocean is one reason the town is a popular destination, Digre added.

For information on volunteering for Coastal Cleanup Day on the Peninsula, visit www.flowstobay.org/ccd or call (650) 372-6200.

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