Just as local leaders began to speak today about the most detrimental factor to water quality, stormwater runoff, it began to rain lightly at the San Antonio River Authority (SARA) office in Southtown. It was a perfectly timed demonstration of how non-point source pollution works during Basura Bash's televised call for volunteers to help maintain one of the city's most important assets: clean waterways.
Volunteers for the 19th annual Basura Bash, next Saturday (Feb. 23), will tackle 15 "dirty" locations along various rivers and streams in San Antonio. Last year the Bash welcomed more than 2,000 volunteers. This year they're shooting for 2,500. Organizers are asking interested parties to register at BasuraBash.org.
Have you ever taken a stroll on the River Walk after a heavy rainfall? Bottles, plastic bags, napkins, motor oil, cigarette butts, fertilizers and other crud found on the street are washed into the river – with obvious side effects for the health of the river, aquatic life, and the human community that uses it.
The same is true for rivers and streams all over San Antonio, said Basura Bash Chairwoman Sonja Jimenez. In addition to runoff pollution, some areas out of the public eye along the river "have become dumping grounds" for people's trash and, in past cases, businesses looking to cheaply get rid of larger items like tires, carpet and furniture.
District 10 City Councilman Carlton Soules said most of the bigger trash pieces have been cleared out in years past, but Salado Creek is the main tributary and funnel for water – and therefore trash– in the area, "if it lands on the ground, (trash) usually winds up in our creek."
While the event, 8 a.m. to noon, is technically volunteer work, there is also room for fun, said Soules. Boy and Girl Scouts, sports teams, community groups and plain ol' groups of unaffiliated friends come out to explore the river trails of San Antonio – the Howard Peak Greenway Trail system, for instance – while cleaning them.
"Oh, and there will be breakfast tacos," Soules said. "That's always good."
According to Basura Bash, last year's volunteers collected:
– 2.4 tons of trash
– 5.6 tons of heavy metal
– 1.3 tons of tires
Darryl Byrd, CEO of SA2020, brought the cleanup efforts up to the broader perspective of what San Antonians want out of their city, a city that respects its natural resources and environment. These kinds of volunteer efforts are ways to "take an even deeper ownership of your city ... not just to be a good volunteer, " Byrd said. "But think about the ROI (return on investment) of being a respectful steward of environmental resources."
Volunteers are encouraged to wear sensible shoes and clothing that cover as much skin as possible while picking up trash on the river – things that you wouldn't mind gettin' dirty to clean up.
Related Stories on the Rivard Report:
Water Security: Will Texas Leadership Finally Act? February 2012
The San Antonio River: Respected Around the World December 2012