Let’s Celebrate Earth Day!

Earth Day is coming upon us! Do you know what that means? April 22nd marks the day we get to focus on the environment, learn more about conservation, be out in nature, and promote a healthy, sustainable environment.

What is Earth Day?
Earth Day started on April 22, 1970 when a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin and Earth Day founder, Gaylord Nelson witnessed devastation caused by the 1969 oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. Senator Nelson and his co-chair, Congressman Pete McCloskey recruited Denis Hayes from Harvard to coordinate a national staff of 85 who promoted events across the United States. On the first Earth Day, 20 million Americans rallied together to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment and protect against the deterioration of the environment. This became the start of the environmental movement and led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts.

In 1990, Denis Hayes organized an Earth Day that went global with 200 million people in 141 countries taking part and addressing environmental issues.

Earth Day is now a celebration of the environment and an opportunity to raise awareness on conservation and sustainability on all forefronts of environmental topics such as water, energy, air, and wildlife. This year’s Earth Day theme is plastic pollution.

Earth Day 2018 Campaign – A World Without Plastic Pollution
We all know plastics have been a blessing and a curse. They are durable, low cost, and easily shaped. They show up consistently in our daily lives and can range from, a candy wrapper to a computer monitor. Plastics are all around us. But with its permanent characteristic, single-use plastics have become increasingly on the spotlight for being litter on our beaches, creeks, streams, landfills, and landscapes. Single-use plastics that we use in our daily lives such as plastic cups and bottles, bags, and straws have become some of the biggest polluters and have been found to injure and poison marine life.

Although plastics seem like a mammoth polluter, there are things you can do in your daily life and on Earth Day to decrease single-use plastic pollution! Here are some tips!

• Skip the Straw — National Skip the Straw Day was February 23 but that doesn’t mean you can’t continue to take part! 500 million straws are used and discarded every day which add up to 175 BILLION straws per year in the United States alone. Say no to plastic straws at restaurants or bring your own reusable straws.
• Say no to disposable plastic cutlery — Again, these will last much longer than your take out dinner.
• Bring your Own Cup — Do you love your local coffee house and your morning coffee or frappe? Buy one of their reusables thermoses or bottles. Those plastic lids and cups will last much longer than your day use.
• Save money and carry a reusable water bottle — Check out our May 2017 Environmental Blog post for more information: www.rrwatershed.org/water-bottle-shock/
• Buy local — When buying local, less packaging is used to get your goods to you!
• Carry your own shopping bag — Whether you are in the grocery store or the mall, use your own shopping bag to cut down on your waste.
• Participate in a clean-up — There are many beach, creek, and park clean-ups that occur every week, month, and year.
• Recycle when you can — Waste management agencies are increasing the types of trash that can be recycled. Check with your local agency to see what you can recycle:

Mendocino County – http://www.mendorecycle.org/
Sonoma County – http://www.recyclenow.org/

Take Part!
This year there are many events occurring in Sonoma and Mendocino County. Search below to find events in your community.

Volunteer for Earth Day – Sonoma Creek (April 21) –

Volunteer on Earth Day at Riverfront (April 22) –

Volunteer on Earth Day at Maxwell Farms (April 22) –

Earth Day Bike Path Cleanup (April 22) with Sonoma County Regional Parks and Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition – http://www.bikesonoma.org/

Noyo Food Forest — April 21, 2018 from 12pm – 5pm in Fort Bragg: A benefit for the learning garden at Fort Bragg High School Campus http://noyofoodforest.org/earth-day/

Earth Day on Stage — April 21, 2018 from 12pm – 4pm in Santa Rosa: FREE family-friendly event with live performances, local and earth friendly products, and eco-friendly crafts and activities for kids! https://www.sonomacounty.com/sonoma-events/santa-rosa-earth-day-festival

Windsor Earth Day and Wellness Festival — April 22, 2018 from 10am – 1pm in Windsor: Bike to the Town Green for live music, wellness and environmentally-focused booths, famer’s market, children crafts, and more!

This article was authored by Christina Leung, RRWA Staff. RRWA (www.rrwatershed.org) is an association of local public agencies in the Russian River Watershed that have come together to coordinate regional programs for clean water, habitat restoration, and watershed enhancement.

Is your toilet also a Trash Can? No!

Most things do not belong in the toilet. In fact, it is easier to list what can go in: water, toilet paper, pee and poo (the three P’s).

However, many people seem to think the sanitary sewer system is a way to get rid of all kinds of waste. Drop it down the drain and it is out of sight, out of mind. What can go wrong? Plenty. Every time materials besides human waste and toilet paper get into our sewer system, it costs the community. These materials can clog the pipes and disrupt the wastewater treatment process. The clogging can back up sewer pipes and damage homes and businesses, as well as drive up sewer maintenance costs and increase sewer bills.

Can I pour my cooking grease down the kitchen sink?
No. It is never OK to put fats, oils, and grease down the drain. Grease poured down the sink (or into the garbage disposal) will cool and harden, leading to unpleasant odors and blockages in your pipes. Instead, pour excess grease into a container with a tight-fitting lid for storing. Use a scraper or spatula to remove all the grease from the pan. Freeze it, or allow it to harden on its own, and throw the hardened oil away on trash day. For more information, see www.rrwatershed.org/project/fats-oils-and-grease.

Expired medicines can be flushed down, right?
No. Recent studies of our nations’ waterways have shown that flushing pharmaceuticals down the toilet or dumping them in the trash might be setting the stage for environmental and human health problems. Medicines should be brought to a local drug take-back site. Visit www.rrwatershed.org/project/safe-medicine-disposal to learn how to properly dispose of unwanted medications.

I’ve heard that disposable wipes must go in the trash, but if the package says “flushable” then is it OK to flush it in the toilet?
No. Tests have shown that “flushable” wipes do not degrade readily like toilet paper. Many municipalities around the state, country, and world are experiencing serious and costly problems with “flushable” products within their sewer systems. Even paper towels and tissues can’t break down fast enough if flushed down the toilet. An option for reducing the waste of these wipes is to use sponges or rags that can be washed and reused.

Can old cleaning or personal care products be emptied into the toilet before I put the containers in the trash?

No. Household hazardous materials should not be flushed because they do break down in water. Dissolved chemicals can travel through the sewer system and pollute the Russian River and the marine environment. Hazardous chemical products, such as antifreeze, batteries or motor oil, as well as solvents, bleach, nail polish, all cleaners, disinfectants, pesticides, polishes, stain removers, fabric softeners, ammonia, dryer sheets, hair care products, fragrances, skin care products, cosmetics, lotions, and more should be taken to a local household hazardous waste disposal site. For information regarding disposal of hazardous materials, including local disposal centers, visit www.recyclenow.org for Sonoma County and www.mendorecycle.org for Mendocino County.

Purchase products made with natural ingredients and avoid products that use chemicals like those mentioned above. For more information and ideas on safer cleaning and living products, visit Sebastopol Toxics Education Program (STEP) at www.healthyworld.org/STEPIndex.html or Community Action Publications at www.healthyworld.org.

I have a food sink. Can I dump food waste down the sink with no problems?

No. A large mass of food waste, even ground up, moving through the sanitary sewer pipes can mix with trash, grease, tree roots, and more to block a pipe. Small amounts are OK to keep your drain flowing, but your drain is not a garbage can. Food waste is compostable, and when combined with mulch are great for your garden.

I’ve heard it is acceptable to clean painting equipment like brushes and rollers in the sink?
It depends. For Latex water-based paints, remove as much of the paint off the painting tools onto a newspaper before washing them in the sink. Oil-based paints and solvents must be treated as hazardous waste. For information regarding disposal of hazardous materials and paint, including local disposal centers, visit www.recyclenow.org for Sonoma County and www.mendorecycle.org for Mendocino County.

So, no trash should be flushed down the toilet or any drain?
Yes! Do not flush items like hair, wrappers, toys, cotton balls, feminine hygiene products, rags, dental floss, cigarette butts, dust/dirt/lint, rubber gloves, bandages, any plastic, condoms, under-wear, and cat litter. This is just a small sample of the items found in the sanitary sewer system. Consider donating gently used clothing and toys. Determine if your plastic can be recycled; if not, then throwing it away. Any remaining waste can be placed in the trash to save yourself time, money, and stress while protecting your home, environment, and community.

This article was authored by Forest Frasieur, of the City of Santa Rosa, on behalf of RRWA. RRWA (www.rrwatershed.org) is an association of local public agencies in the Russian River Watershed that have come together to coordinate regional programs for clean water, habitat restoration, and watershed enhancement.

Fire Safe Landscaping

Many lessons were learned from the wildfires of 2017. The most important of which is that any fire, with enough fuel and driven by wind can burn through almost anything. It is never possible to protect your property 100% but there are things you can do with your landscaping to provide your family a fighting chance.

The best defense begins with defensible space. Landscaping within the first 30′ of your home is critical. Planting low growing vegetation (waist high or lower), keeping trees pruned, and using automatic irrigation systems can do a lot to protect your home from wildfires

Illustration courtesy of
California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF)

Get in the Zone

Zone 1 is what firefighting professionals call the first 30′ from your home. This is the most critical area around your home and your last line of defense. It does not have to be a no-man’s-land. Incorporating hardscape features into your landscaping plan like patios, meandering stone paths and low masonry walls can be used to form fuel breaks near your home. Plants are welcome here but need to be widely spaced in beds or containers and regularly irrigated. Water efficient automatic drip irrigation systems can protect your home by keeping your landscaping green in the dry season.

Maintenance within Zone 1 is key. Keeping the fuel load low is the goal and you can do it yourself for free. Rake up leaves during the Summer and Fall and put them in your green trash can. Avoid using chipped mulch in this zone as it can harbor embers and ignite unexpectedly even after a wildfire has passed by. If you have trees in this zone, always prune the low branches to maintain a gap of several feet between the ground vegetation and the lowest branches. Tree branches that overhang the roof of your home should always be pruned back. Don’t forget to remove the leaves from your roof and gutters in the Summer and Fall. Dried leaves are often the first thing to catch fire.

Properties in more urban neighborhoods can benefit from fire resistant fences. Using thicker lumber (1-1/2” or more) or incorporating stone, masonry or metal into your fence design can be both an architectural statement and a shield against a fire. Design fire resistant fences with minimal gaps. Gaps can provide a place for airborne embers to get trapped and smolder. FEMA has published a fact sheet on the design of fire-resistant fences which is available online at https://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/20130726-1652-20490-2634/fema_p_737_fs_14.pdf

Regardless of the kind of fence you have, always avoid stacking flammable material like firewood or lumber against it. A good rule of thumb is to never store flammable material like firewood and lumber anywhere in Zone 1. If you like desert flora, consider planting a cactus garden. Succulents are naturally full of water, require little maintenance and naturally resist catching fire.

Beyond Zone 1 is Zone 2, which extends another 70′ from your home (for a total of 100′ defensible space). This is where careful pruning, wide plant spacing and mowing dry grass serve to reduce the intensity of the flames before they get to your home. Planting fire-resistant plants like California Fuchsia, sage, and California Redbud not only resist catching fire but are also drought tolerant so less water is needed to keep them green. A useful list of fire-resistant plants is available online from Fire Safe Marin at http://www.firesafemarin.org/plants/fire-resistant. Maintenance is key in Zone 2 too, if you cannot easily walk through this zone, then it is overgrown and needs to be pruned and/or mowed.

In all zones, avoid planting “fire adapted” plants. These are plants that have adapted themselves to burn periodically and actually encourage wildfires. Plants that drop lots of leaves have flakey bark or resinous stems are considered “fire adapted”. Eucalyptus trees, coyote bush (baccharis) and manzanita trees (manzanita shrubs can be OK if kept low) are examples of the plants you want to keep far from your home. The California Department of Forestry has published some interesting information regarding “fire adapted” ecosystems which is available online at http://www.calfire.ca.gov/communications/downloads/live_w_fire.pdf.

Not everyone can do everything. Just remember that if all you do is prune your trees, clean your gutters and rake your leaves you have already come a long way to having a defensible space.

The Wildlands

Those who live next to open undeveloped land get to enjoy some amazing views and a closeness to nature. This wildland-urban interface (WUI) also carries extra responsibility for fire protection. Wildland has few roads, is difficult to access and is rarely managed. Wildland has more vegetation than urban land and in the summer months, it can easily burn. Many plants in our area rely on fire to reproduce and have adapted themselves to occasional wildfires. As our homes and neighborhoods have crept into these natural areas we have exposed ourselves to an environment that is meant to burn. If your home is along the WUI then careful landscape management is critical. Heavy brush, closely growing trees, and low branches can easily catch fire and burn intensely. Even the 100′ defensible space required by State Law might not be enough. If your home borders wildland it is critical that you maintain the land around your home to be fire safe. Prune tree branches that are low to the ground, keep shrubs widely spaced and low (waist high or lower) and mow, mow, mow tall grass as soon as it turns brown.

What Saved This House – Photo courtesy of CDF

Flirt with Firefighters

Firefighters are attracted to defensible space and if you attract enough of them, they might bring their fire truck. When firefighters respond to wildland fires they need defensible areas to set up and fight the fire. If your home has a defensible area and access to water (nearby fire hydrant or a pool) firefighters can use your home as a staging area. For those who live on the WUI, this is the best defense against wildfire for which you can hope. If you have a pool, consider installing a portable pump that firefighters can use. If you have space, include wide driveways and large turnaround spaces in your landscaping design. Many local fire departments offer free fire safety evaluations and will provide guidance on how to make your property firefighter friendly and wildfire-resistant.

More Information:

CalFire – “Wildfire is Coming… Are You Ready” http://www.readyforwildfire.org/Fire-Safe-Landscaping/

CalFire – “Living with Fire” http://www.calfire.ca.gov/communications/downloads/live_w_fire.pdf

Fire Safe Marin – “Fire Resistant Plants” http://www.firesafemarin.org/plants/fire-resistant

FEMA – “Landscape Fences and Walls” https://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/20130726-1652-20490-2634/fema_p_737_fs_14.pdf

This article was authored by Eric Janzen of the City of Cloverdale, on behalf of RRWA. RRWA (www.rrwatershed.org) is an association of local public agencies in the Russian River Watershed that have come together to coordinate regional programs for clean water, habitat restoration, and watershed enhancement.

Reduce, Recycle, Reuse, Recharge

The gifts have been opened, the parties enjoyed, the feasts have been eaten. But before you relax, spend some time thinking about how you can reduce, recycle, and reuse the waste that was generated during the holidays. An additional one million tons of waste is generated between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Giving a second life to products allows us to enjoy the holiday season while still being earth-friendly. Here are a few examples of how to help:

Reduce: It’s likely you have a stack of catalogs that were delivered pre-holidays – now is the time to cancel those you don’t need. When you purchase drinks and snacks for New Year’s and Super Bowl parties, buy in bulk. You can reduce food-packaging waste by substituting large bottles of soda for individual cans or bottles. You can eliminate a major source of plastic waste by skipping bottled water altogether. Pitchers of iced tap water (flavored with cucumber, lemon or lime slices) are less expensive and much better for the Earth. Many breweries refill growlers, allowing you to buy local while reducing the use of individual beer bottles or cans. Items such as individually wrapped candies, chip bags, and other snacks generate a lot of waste and bulk options are usually available.

Recycle: Christmas trees can be recycled into compost and mulch. After the holidays place your Christmas tree curbside for pick up. Before recycling, your tree must be free of flocking, tinsel, decorations and its stand. Wrapping paper, greeting cards, cardboard packing and other paper products can be recycled in your curbside recycling cart. Keep in mind, foil‐backed, metallic, and plastic wrapping paper CANNOT be recycled.

In Sonoma County, fruit and vegetable food scraps can be put in the curbside yard debris cart for the municipal composting program. In Ukiah and the adjacent unincorporated area of Mendocino County residents can place food waste along with green waste into the green waste bin.  You can compost your fruit and vegetable food scraps from your holiday dinners and parties at home, too. Recycle the cooking oil, if you deep fry a turkey. Check out our website at www.rrwatershed.org/project/fats-oils-and-grease for locations in both Sonoma County and Mendocino County that accept clean strained cooking oil for biodiesel production.

When purchasing a new electronic device, ask the sales staff at the electronics store if they will take your old device back for recycling. In some areas, small electronic devices can be disposed of in the curbside recycling. Check with your local garbage company for more information. Recycle your old cell phones. State law requires that retailers selling cell phones take back used cell phones at time of purchase.

Reuse: Save ribbons and large pieces of wrapping paper to reuse on next year’s packages. Many local packaging stores and mail centers are glad to accept styrofoam peanuts and bubble wrap packaging for reuse. If that old iPad or laptop still works, consider donating the device to charity.

Recharge: About 40 percent of all battery sales occur during the holiday season. Buy rechargeable batteries to accompany your electronic gifts, and consider giving a battery charger as well. Rechargeable batteries reduce the amount of potentially harmful materials thrown away and can save money in the long run. By law, retailers selling rechargeable batteries are required to take back used rechargeable batteries from their customers. For a list of these retailers, visit the Call2Recycle website at www.call2recycle.org/.

Old batteries cannot be disposed of in the garbage. Some stores offer take‐back for alkaline batteries, in addition to rechargeables. Ask the sales staff where you buy your batteries if they will take your used ones back for recycling. All kinds of household batteries can also be disposed of through Sonoma County’s Household Toxics Program and the Mendocino County HazMobile Program. In Mendocino County, household batteries can also be disposed at the Ukiah Valley Transfer Station.

In the future, brighten your holidays while saving money with LED lights. LED’s use 75% less energy than conventional holiday lights and last up to 25 times longer than incandescent lighting. They also offer convenient features like dimming and automatic shut-off.

For any questions about recycling and year‐round disposal options:

In Sonoma County, visit www.recyclenow.org, call the Sonoma County Eco‐Desk at 565‐DESK (3375), or look for your Sonoma County Recycling Guide printed in “The Real” Yellow Pages phone book under Recycling.

In Mendocino County, call the Recycling Hotline at 468‐9704, visit www.mendorecycle.org.


This article was authored by Ann DuBay, Sonoma County Water Agency, with much of the content provided by the Sonoma County Waste Management Agency on behalf of RRWA. RRWA (www.rrwatershed.org) is an association of local public agencies in the Russian River Watershed that have come together to coordinate regional programs for clean water, habitat restoration, and watershed enhancement.

Stewarding the Electronic Dinosaur from Cradle to Grave

Electronic waste has become the fastest growing waste stream in the WORLD.

When discarded, the toxicity of electronic waste functions as an eroding agent on clean water, healthy soil, and fresh air. The impacts of improperly disposed e-waste are measurable, harmful, and applicable on a global scale. The general cause and consequence of its mismanagement seem to be shared equally among manufacturers and consumers alike. One cause being the fact that most electronic devices experience a life cycle that overturns as rapid as advancing technology will allow it to be. Another cause is the fact that these devices can be inconvenient to dispose of properly due to limited drop-off locations and/or expensive disposal fees. The consequence is a growing stockpile of obsoletes that can leach toxic discharges into places like our drinking water supply.

The cradle‑to-grave stewardship of our electronic dinosaurs is disappointing.

How you can help:

  • Hold on to electronics longer to reduce demand.
  • Donate items that can be refurbished or reused, otherwise recycle.
  • Form an outreach campaign and/or organization to increase awareness in your neighborhood.

The rate at which technology refreshes has become so advanced that many consumer electronics sold in the US are rendered outdated within a year. Annual sales in the US are over 200 billion dollars and growing. As one would reasonably correlate, the annual production of e-waste is growing in near magnitude. Cradle stages are brief, characterized by a consumer electronics industry spending nearly 4 billion dollars a year in advertising. By repeatedly soliciting to us the concept that newer is necessary, we have become conditioned to anticipate the release date of the model 5001 while the model 5000 in our pocket is still under warranty. Overnight our gadgets become a dinosaur; functionally extinct and thrust into the grave stage.

Disappointingly, the grave stage is even more brief. As it stands today, our electronic relics are seldom tossed away with the ecological dignity that recycling or reusing would provide. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, nearly 3 BILLION tons of electronics are disposed of each year, and only 25 percent are recycled. The vast remaining become deposited into landfills where they begin to leach into the water, soil, and air. Any hazardous qualities contained within them such as arsenic, chromium, lead, and mercury are unrestricted in their travels. Roughly half of the states in the US have enacted e-waste legislation, and the options available for proper disposal are improving but are still very limited and oftentimes expensive. In most places, batteries and cell phones can be taken back at no charge to their place of purchase. Free take-back events and curbside pick-ups are available at certain times of the year.

If you suspect that what you’re about to throw into the trash may contain an electronic component, just set it aside for a moment. Contact your City or trash service provider for guidance. Look online for drop-off locations (www.calrecycle.ca.gov/Electronics/Collection or www.Call2recycle.org) and special take-back events in your area. The moment that we define our electronic device to be electronic waste, is the same moment we become stewards of our vitality.

This article was authored by Nick Bennett, of the City of Rohnert Park, on behalf of RRWA. RRWA (www.rrwatershed.org) is an association of local public agencies in the Russian River Watershed that have come together to coordinate regional programs for clean water, habitat restoration, and watershed enhancement.

Fats, Oils, and Grease Down the Sink Ruin Municipal Sewer Systems and Private Septic Systems

Pouring fats, oils, and grease (FOG) down sinks can ruin your home or restaurant’s plumbing systems and have negative impacts on municipal sewer systems and private septic systems. FOG includes:

  • Canola oil
  • Olive oil
  • Vegetable oil
  • Fats from pay-frying meats,
  • Sauces
  • Butter and margarine
  • Food scraps

Don’t dump that FOG down your sink! FOG combine into solids in your plumbing system and downstream in the public sewer or septic system. Primary problems include: partial or total flow blockage, contamination of downstream water resources, repair costs, snapped sewer pipes, and increases in sewer bill price due to an increase in operation and maintenance cost for the municipal sewer company. In September of 2017, an 800‑foot‑long mega-FOG-blob was discovered weighing 130 metric tons[i]. The City of New York spent $18M cleaning up FOG blobs in 2016. On September 28, 2017, one-million gallons of sewage was released into a stream in Maryland after a 130-ton FOG blob that was 300-yards long clogged the sewer system[ii]. For more information watch the video: http://bit.ly/FOGpipe. FOG buildup is a big deal and will have a negative impact on your sewer system.

What can you do instead?

  1. For best results, pour excess grease into a container with a tight-fitting lid for storing. Use a scraper or spatula to remove all the grease from the pan. Freeze it, or allow it to harden on its own, and throw the hardened oil away on trash day.
  2. Don’t rinse greasy dishes! Before washing, use a paper towel to remove small amounts of grease or cooking oil, and then simply throw the paper towel in the trash.
  3. If you have a restaurant or other business which generates FOG, check with your local building department on requirements for installation of grease interceptors/grease traps.

For more information on the recycling or proper disposal of fats, oils, and grease, along with lots more great information on how to keep your community clean, in Sonoma County contact the Eco-Desk at (707) 565-DESK (3375) or go to www.recyclenow.org; and in Mendocino County call the Solid Waste Management Authority at (707) 468‑9704 or go www.mendorecycle.org.

This article was authored by Brian Wallace of LACO Associates, on behalf of RRWA. RRWA (www.rrwatershed.org) is an association of local public agencies in the Russian River Watershed that have come together to coordinate regional programs for clean water, habitat restoration, and watershed enhancement.


[i] National Geographic (2017) “Huge Blobs of Fat and Trash Are Filling the World’s Sewers.” Accessed 10/23/2017. https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/08/fatbergs-fat-cities-sewers-wet-wipes-science/

[ii] USA Today (2017) “Fatberg of grease, wipes blamed in Baltimore sewer outflow.” Accessed 10/23/2017. www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2017/09/28/fatberg-grease-wipes-blamed-baltimore-sewer-overflow/711574001

The Street Sweeper – Our First Line of Defense

The sound of the street sweeper is music to my ears. As the street sweeper drives down the street the sound of the street sweeper vacuum unit reminds me that the sweeper is our first line of defense in preventing debris from entering the storm drain system.  By keeping debris out of our storm drain system, the street sweeper is doing its part to prevent debris from entering our creeks and rivers.

What does a street sweeper collect?

The street sweeper collects all loose material from our streets and gutters. This material may include trash, leaves, dust, nails and screws, oils, particles from brake pads and brake shoes, and debris from worn out asphalt pavement. The street sweeper is also used to collect and remove broken glass and other debris from traffic accidents. In addition, the street sweeper may be used to collect material left behind after a spill. Without a street sweeper, this unwanted material might eventually find its way into the storm drain system and ultimately end up in the receiving creek or river.  In Ukiah alone, the street sweeper collects and disposes of approximately 800 tons of debris on a yearly basis!

How does a street sweeper operate?

The street sweeper is basically a motorized vacuum cleaner. A separate engine powers the gutter brooms which rotate and pull debris from the curb and pavement for easy removal by the vacuum unit. This separate engine powers the high-power vacuum unit pulling the loose debris from the streets. As the sweeping and vacuuming process takes place, water is applied to keep dust from street sweeping at a minimum level.  Occasionally a tree branch will become lodged in the vacuum unit and cause a trail of debris to follow the street sweeper. Upon noticing this, the operator will stop and clear the tree branch from the unit.

What can you do?

As a citizen and good neighbor, it is important for all to do our part. You can help by moving your vehicle(s) from the street before street sweeping day. Please contact your local Department of Public Works to learn the schedule for street sweeping in your neighborhood. Also, do not sweep leaves or place lawn cuttings or other debris onto the street. In Ukiah, as in most jurisdictions, ordinances prohibit depositing debris on the sidewalk, in the gutter, or on the street. Please use your green bin for all leaves and yard waste. If you observe broken glass or other debris on the street, please notify your Department of Public Works.  If you are driving, use caution when overtaking a street sweeper on its route.

Please remember the street sweeper is your friend. It is doing its part to keep our streets clean and tidy and to prevent unwanted debris from entering our creeks and waterways.

This article was authored by Rick Seanor of the City of Ukiah on behalf of RRWA. RRWA (www.rrwatershed.org) is an association of local public agencies in the Russian River Watershed that have come together to coordinate regional programs for clean water, habitat restoration, and watershed enhancement.

Creek Week Volunteer Opportunities

Throughout the Russian River watershed, the third week of September is recognized as Creek Week. This year Creek Week is from September 16 to September 24. During Creek Week, creek, river and ocean clean-up campaigns will take place throughout Sonoma and Mendocino Counties. The Russian River watershed consists of over 150 creeks which provide water supply, wildlife habitat, flood capacity and recreation. Unfortunately, trash and debris accumulation in local waterways impair water quality, wildlife habitat and, at times, recreation and flood capacity. This is a great opportunity to take part in activities that connect you with your community and environmental practices that help protect our creeks.

You can contribute to the health of the Russian River ecosystem by participating in one of the creek and river cleanup events listed below!

Santa Rosa residents are invited to participate in the City of Santa Rosa’s Instagram contest. Post a photo next to a ‘Ours to Protect’ sign where a street crosses a creek with #OursToProtect and #SantaRosaWater to win weekly giveaways during the month of September. Every Thursday during the month of September one photo will be selected to win a $100 Sonoma Outfitters gift card (City of Santa Rosa residents only).

September 16

  • 33rd Annual Creek to Coast Cleanup at the

Location: Prince Memorial Greenway on the Olive Park Footbridge near 1698 Hazel Street, Santa Rosa

Time: 9:30 am to noon

Learn more: srcity.org/2290/Creek-to-Coast-Cleanup

  • Cotati Creek Clean-up

Location: Cotati Well Lot #2, between 8560 and 8561 Lakewood Ave, Cotati

Time: 9:00 am to 1:00 pm

Learn more: dailyacts.nonprofiteasy.net/PublicPages/Event/Calendar.aspx?mid=636

  • Russian River Cleanup

Locations: McCarty’s Bar and Grill, 6951 East Road, Redwood Valley

Time: 9:00 am to 1:00 pm

RSVP and learn more: www.eventbrite.com/e/russian-river-watershed-cleanup-tickets-27204836398 or contact Deborah with Mendocino County Resource Conservation District at 707-462-3664 x 106 or deborah.edelman@mcrcd.org

  • Ukiah Creeks Cleanup

Locations: Oak Manor Park, Ukiah

Time: 9:00 am to 1:00 pm

RSVP and learn more: www.eventbrite.com/e/russian-river-watershed-cleanup-tickets-27204836398 or contact Deborah with Mendocino County Resource Conservation District at 707-462-3664 x 106 or deborah.edelman@mcrcd.org

  • Hopland Area Russian River Cleanup

Locations: The intersection of Highway 101 and Highway 175, Hopland

Time: 8:30 am to noon

RSVP and learn more: www.eventbrite.com/e/russian-river-watershed-cleanup-tickets-27204836398 or contact Ken with North Coast Fire & EMS Training at 707-570-9226 or ken@ncfems.com

  • Cloverdale Area Cleanups

Locations: Cloverdale Regional Park and Trail, Geysers Road, River Park at Crocker Bridge

Time: 8:30 am to noon

RSVP and learn more: www.eventbrite.com/e/russian-river-watershed-cleanup-tickets-27204836398

  • Healdsburg Area Cleanups

Locations: Riverfront Regional Park, Magnolia Lane to Highway 101 Bridge, Syar Plant Beach, Badger Park, West Soda Rock Road, Alexander Valley Campground Beach

Time: 8:30 am to noon

RSVP and learn more: www.eventbrite.com/e/russian-river-watershed-cleanup-tickets-27204836398

  • Guerneville Area Cleanups

Locations: Steelhead Beach Regional Park, Moms Beach Regional Park, Sunset Beach Regional Park, Rio Nido Beaches, Johnson’s Beach area

Time: 8:30 am to noon

RSVP and learn more: www.eventbrite.com/e/russian-river-watershed-cleanup-tickets-27204836398

  • Coastwalk Sonoma County Coastal Cleanup

Locations: Doran Regional Park, Jenner Beaches, Bodega Bay Beaches

Time: 9:00 am to noon

RSVP and learn more: sonomabeachcleanup.org/events

September 18

  • Guerneville Weekly Town Cleanup

Location: Guerneville Town Plaza

Time: 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm

Learn more: cleanriveralliance.org/new-events-1/2017/9/18/guerneville-town-cleanup-every-monday

September 23

  • Monthly Santa Rosa Creek Cleanup

Location: Prince Memorial Greenway at 105 Olive Street

Time: 10:00 am to noon

Learn more: cleanriveralliance.org/new-events-1/2017/9/23/monthly-cleanup-clean-river-alliance-santa-rosa

  • City of Healdsburg Foss Creek Cleanup and Smart Living Fair

Location: West Plaza Park, Between North Street and Matheson Street in Healdsburg

Time: 8:00 am to 1:00pm

RSVP and learn more: http://www.ci.healdsburg.ca.us/765/Foss-Creek-Cleanup

This article was authored by Nazareth Tesfai, of the Sonoma County Water Agency, on behalf of RRWA. RRWA (www.rrwatershed.org) is an association of local public agencies in the Russian River Watershed that have come together to coordinate regional programs for clean water, habitat restoration, and watershed enhancement.

Creek-Friendly Home Improvement and Yard Care

The days are long and warm, but many of us are anything but lazy. We are in our yards tackling our outdoor “honey-do” lists. We are refinishing our decks, painting our homes, and taming our yards. After painting the house, sanding the deck, or trimming back the landscaping it would be convenient to sweep or pour the mess into the storm drain (or gutter). The problem is that everything that enters the storm drain eventually flows into our creeks untreated. Some of the material may sit in the storm drain for a while during the summer, but when the rains come again in the fall, it will all be carried into our creeks. Our creeks are what so much wildlife calls home, and our creeks drain into the Laguna de Santa Rosa and the Russian River. Pollutants and debris from our home improvement projects can harm the fish, birds and other life that live in our creeks.

Here are some ways you can protect the water quality of our creeks while checking items off your home improvement to-do list.

Never rinse your paintbrushes under an outdoor spigot. Rinse your used paintbrushes in a sink plumbed to sewer, not outdoors. When you rinse your paintbrushes in a sink, the rinse water will be directed to the wastewater treatment plant, rather than a nearby creek. If you have any leftover paint to discard, please take it to a paint recycling location. You can find a list of paint recycling centers by visiting the following website: http://recyclenow.org/toxics/paint.asp

Power Washing
Even biodegradable soap can be harmful to aquatic life. Use water without soap whenever possible as you power wash. Plain water ejected at high pressure is usually enough to clean surfaces. If you do use soap, be sure to direct rinse water to landscaping if possible. If the rinse water is going directly into the storm drain system, please cover the storm drain inlet, trap the rinse water, and pump it into a sewer inlet. Discharging hot water into the creeks can actually kill aquatic life, so use cool water straight from the outdoor tap.

Swimming Pools
Swimming pool and spa water contain chlorine, and chlorine harms fish and other aquatic life. If you need to empty your swimming pool or spa, drain it slowly onto a landscaped area, if possible. Otherwise, drain it into a sewer cleanout. Please plan ahead and discontinue adding chlorine, but let your pool or spa sit for at least three days without adding chlorine before discharging it so that the chlorine will dissipate. If you cannot wait two weeks to discharge, please dechlorinate the water before discharging. You can call your local public works department for information about the requirements for dechlorination and discharge of pool and spa water to your sewer.

Yard Waste
For those of us living next to a creek, it is so convenient to dump our yard waste over the back fence! It seems reasonable; yard waste is natural. Unfortunately, piles of yard waste dumped into our creeks can cause flooding and smother the existing natural vegetation. Another mistake many residents make is sweeping their yard waste into the storm drain inlet. By clogging the storm drains with yard waste, we cause flooding. Most communities in Sonoma County have green waste curbside pick-up. Even if you live next to a creek, please use those green yard waste bins.

Pesticides kill. Well, they do. The purpose of pesticide (which includes insecticides, fungicides, and herbicides) is to kill a targeted pest. Unfortunately, pesticides can also kill beneficial insects and aquatic life. Please consider alternatives to applying pesticides in your yard. There are many alternatives to pesticide use. Visit the Our Water Our World website for more information on pesticide-free pest management:  http://ourwaterourworld.org/.  If you must use pesticides, then please apply them sparingly and never apply them within 24 hours of forecasted rain.

For more information on how to protect our creeks while fixing up your home, click on the following link: http://srcity.org/1232/Pollution-Prevention


This article was authored by Cristina Goulart of the Town of Windsor for RRWA. RRWA (www.rrwatershed.org) is an association of local public agencies in the Russian River Watershed that have come together to coordinate regional programs for clean water, habitat restoration, and watershed enhancement.

5 Russian River Friendly Car Washing Tips

Can you wash a car without wasting water and harming the environment? The answer is Yes, if you plan ahead and understand that everything that’s been stuck to your car—gasoline, oil, heavy metal particles, tar, and particulate matter from exhaust fumes—has the potential to flow from your wash area to the nearest storm drain and eventually reach the Russian River. Here are five simple tips to “go green” while washing cars, without wasting water or harming the environment:

  1. Wash on a permeable surface (lawn, gravel, dirt). If you make only one small change in your car washing routine, let it be this! By moving your car wash to a flat non-paved surface, and away from storm drains, you allow the washwater time to be collected and absorbed into the soil where pollutants can be broken down naturally.
  2. Take your car to a commercial car washing facility. Most commercial car wash facilities will filter rinse water and direct it to a sanitary sewer where it will get treated and possibly reused (recycled water). Moreover, according to the International Car Wash Association, the average person washing a car at home uses a whopping 80 to 140 gallons of water, as opposed to the 45 gallons typically used at a car wash.
  3. Rethink your fundraising car wash. If you are a holding a community car wash on a paved area, plan to block the storm drains receiving the rinse water and pump the accumulated rinse water into a sanitary sewer inlet, or direct the water to a landscaped area where it can soak in. Before planning a fundraising car wash, please call your local municipality for the latest requirements and guidelines. You can get more detailed information by going to the following web links: http://www.sonoma-county.org/prmd/sw/pp-home-carwash.htm   or http://www.co.mendocino.ca.us/planning/pdf/River_Friendly_car_wash.pdf.
  4. Swap out cleaners for eco-friendly or homemade cleaners. There are several ready-made, ecofriendly car wash products available, some are even waterless. Homemade cleaners can save the environment and your money. Use natural ingredients like baking soda and vinegar. Try soaking a cloth with vinegar or denatured alcohol to soak and rub off dried bugs. Denatured alcohol will also remove tar and sap. Remember to rinse the treated area with water and rewax, as vinegar can strip a car’s finish.
  5. Increase the time between washing or try a self-serve car wash station. Bring your own eco-friendly car wash products to a self-serve car wash station where pressurized water dispensers help to control and reduce the amount of water used in your wash. Wastewater from your wash will drain into sewer grates for proper treatment.


This article was authored by Sabrina Barron, RRWA staff. RRWA (www.rrwatershed.org) is an association of local public agencies in the Russian River Watershed that have come together to coordinate regional programs for clean water, habitat restoration, and watershed enhancement.