[Fosc] FW: media coverage of FOSC!!!

Camille Nowell camille_fawne at hotmail.com
Thu Sep 30 09:28:22 PDT 2010


Congratulations on a very good article and exposure for FOSC and Sausal Creek.

I forwarded the info on the creek discharge and fish kill to my boyfriend, a geochemist, and he came up with the following analysis below.  I wonder what we can do to stop EBMUD from repeating these mistakes in the future.


From: Angus.McGrath at stantec.com
To: camille_fawne at hotmail.com
Date: Thu, 30 Sep 2010 10:01:44 -0600
Subject: RE: [Fosc] media coverage of FOSC!!!

Using half again as much reductant to remove the chlorine removes
all of the oxygen from the water and leaves a reductant or oxygen scavenger in
the treated water.  EPA limits for reduced sulfur compounds typically used to
react with chlorine and chloramine are literally below the limits of detection.
For our NPDES permits (required to discharge into a stream) do not allow
discharge of any sulfide into groundwater.  Most likely the sodium or potassium
metabisulfite they used (a compound used to preserve wine) was still in the
water and the fish suffocated.  Chloramine is also dangerous for fish, but it
wouldn’t necessarily kill the fish since the water contains many natural
reductants that would react with in and neutralize it.  The sulfide probably
binds tightly to the hemoglobin sites preventing oxygen from binding to it
since sulfide precipitates with ferrous iron to form pyrite.


I would bet money that is what happened, and you won’t be
able to measure anything to show that.  I doubt there is a way to show that the
fish suffocated to death, and the results may have been the same if they had been
exposed to excess chloramines since that would have the effect of burning their
lungs and prevented them from breathing normally.


It is so sad that this happened.




Angus McGrath

Principal Geochemist


57 Lafayette Circle 2nd Floor

Lafayette CA 94549

Ph:   (925) 299-9300 Ext. 241

Fx:   (925) 299-9302

Cell: (510) 385-4497

angus.mcgrath at stantec.com



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From: Camille Nowell
[mailto:camille_fawne at hotmail.com] 

Sent: Thursday, September 30, 2010 8:43 AM

To: McGrath, Angus

Subject: FW: [Fosc] media coverage of FOSC!!!


Hey Gus,  What do you think went
wrong?  EBMUD says they used ample dechorinating agent so the fish should
have been ok.  See below.


To: FOSC at lists.sausalcreek.org

Date: Wed, 29 Sep 2010 16:54:29 -0400

From: mjrauz at aol.com

Subject: [Fosc] media coverage of FOSC!!!

We were on the news last weekend-
Our own Kimra McAfee interviewed about the reason to clean creeks- see-




AND--- about the trout kills--


Estuary News-

Bay-Delta News and Views from
the San Francisco Estuary Partnership | Volume 19, No.5 | OCTOBER 2010




If there were ever a poster
child for urban 

stream restoration,
Oakland’s Sausal Creek 

is surely it. One of the
longest-running such 

groups in the Bay Area, the
Friends of Sausal 

Creek’s accomplishments
are prodigious. 

Partnering with the city, the
group recently 

removed three dams that
blocked the creek’s 

steelhead from moving
upstream, and restored 

about 700 feet of channel,
planting 1,500 feet 

of creek bank with some
50,000 native plants 

they grew in their own
nursery. Over the past 

14 years, they have stabilized
land- slides, teamed 

up with the Boy
Scouts to remove invasives, 

installed a large
native plant garden, produced a 

watershed plan and
trail maps for the creek and 

its tribs, built and
maintained trails, acquired 

land adjacent to the creek to
preserve as open 

space, and spent thousands of
hours on com- 

munity outreach and
monitoring birds, water 

quality, fish, rare plants,
and even oysters at 

the creek’s


More recently, the city
received a grant to 

liberate 180 feet of stream
from a culvert, part 

of a project that will
restore another 745 feet 

of stream. Some might say
that to see this 

thriving riparian
corridor—and fish—in the 

midst of such an urban area
is nothing short 

of a miracle. The California
Land Steward- 

ship’s Laurel Marcus,
who recently completed 

a watershed plan for Sausal
Creek, says 

“Sausal is unique
amongst urban creeks and 

has significantly better
aquatic conditions as 

demonstrated by aquatic
insect monitoring.” 

This, says, Marcus, is in
part because one of 

its tributaries flows almost
entirely through 

park land. But is also
clearly the result of the 

city’s and the
Friends’ blood, sweat, and— 



One of the main motivators
for both the 

can make it to the Estuary and
ocean and back 

upstream again; numerous
culverts, especially 

in the creek’s lower
reaches, may act as bar- 

riers. Yet steelhead are
surprising, amazing 

fish, says the SF Bay
Regional Water Board’s 

Leslie Ferguson, and
sometimes make their 

way against all odds, a
thought that is echoed 

by the US EPA’s Rob
Leidy, who lives in the 

watershed and works with the
Friends. Leidy 

says it is possible that fish
could make their 

way up through the culverts
under the right 

conditions. What is known for
certain is that 

lots of fish are thriving in
the creek, especially 

in its several deep
pools and undercut banks, where 

they can hang out
and feed when flows get too 

low. One of the
Friends’ board members, Sean 

Welch, who walks
the creek weekly to conduct 

fish surveys, says he noticed
shallow gravel 

beds in the creek with
“tons of fry” after this 

year’s wet spring.
Others have seen large fish 

in the creek—close to a
foot long—although 

no one has witnessed them

On August 5, as the
city’s Kristin Hathaway 

was walking the stream with

discussing plans for the
upcoming restoration 

project, she discovered
several dead trout 

in one of the pools. Hathaway then walked 

upstream and found East Bay
MUD conducting 

maintenance of its drinking
water pipes in the 

street a couple hundred feet
above the pool. A 

few hours later, the city
went back out to the 

site with the SF Bay Regional
Water Board and 

found dozens more dead fish.
While the cause 

of the fish kill is still
under investigation, there 

have been numerous problems
over the past 

decade with fish being killed
when chloram- 

ines—added to water
utility pipes to disinfect 

drinking water—have
been accidentally 

discharged into local
creeks. East Bay MUD’s John Schroeter says his 

agency is still conducting an
investigation of the incident but that East Bay MUD crews had

put in a new pipe and then
chlorinated it for 

24 hours to protect public
health. The water 

was then flushed from the
pipe into a tanker 

truck, where it underwent
dechlorination, says 

Schroeter. “Our crews
did what they were sup- 

posed to do; they
dechlorinated the superchlo- 

rinated water,” he
says. After the water sat in 

the tanker truck for two to
three hours, it was 

released via a
three-quarter inch hose into 

the storm drain system that
flows into Sausal 

Creek. “We added
almost half again as much 

dechlorinating agent as was
needed,” says 

Schroeter. “We have
no reason to believe the 

water wasn’t fully
According to 

an East Bay MUD report, the

water was over 200 ppm
chlorine (regular tap 

water is about 2 ppm). 


Schroeter says his agency is
still “looking 

at some issues” but
admits that the water 

from the tank was not tested
before it was 

released into the storm drain
and creek. “If 

anything,” says
Shroeter, “We probably erred 

on the side of
over-dechlorinating.” Schroeter 

says there was another
discharge of chlori- 

nated water into the creek
back in July when 

a truck knocked over a fire
hydrant and flooded 

Dimond Park (where the same
trout pool 

involved in the August 5
incident is located). 

“We’re looking
into that too. Maybe the fish 

were already stressed and
we’re seeing some 

residual effects.” Why
not discharge the 

dechlorinated water into the
sanitary sewer 

treatment system, just to be
on the safe side? 

“That is not normal
practice; normal practice 

is to dechlorinate and
release into the storm 

drain system.”
Nonetheless, as its maintenance 

operations continued on the
site, East Bay 

MUD began trucking the water
to its main 

wastewater treatment

While the cause of the August
5 fish kill 

will probably be under
investigation for a 

while, water line breaks and
problems with 

chlorinated discharges and
fish kills have 

been a problem for years
around the Bay, 

with its aging pipes, and
itchy faults shaking 

the ground. Most water
purveyors in the Bay 

Area have switched to using

(chlorine and ammonia) to
disinfect drinking 

water because it lasts longer
than chlorine. 

But chloramines are highly
toxic to aquatic life, 

according to a May 19, 2009
SF Bay Regional 

Water Board letter to the
California Water 

Bay, washing out a
restoration project being 

done by the San Francisco PUC
and killing at 

least 32 steelhead. After a
spill in Berkeley’s 

Strawberry Creek a few years
ago that killed 

at least 30 Sacramento
suckers, another na- 

tive fish (see
“Chlorinated Clues,” ESTUARY, 

February 2006), the Water
Board held several 

meetings with East Bay MUD,
the public, and 

city officials with the goal
of encouraging East 

Bay MUD field personnel to
better respond 

to spills. Yet problems with

discharges into waterways
have continued. In 

the city of El Cerrito,
resident George McRae 

says Pacific chorus frogs
disappeared from 

Baxter Creek after multiple
discharges of 

chloramine-containing water
from East Bay 

MUD maintenance


If chloramines are found to
have caused 

this kill and, if tests show
that the steelhead 

in Sausal Creek are
anadromous (migrate to 

the Bay and ocean and back),
NOAA Fisheries 

could prosecute for
“take” of a threatened spe- 

cies. Steelhead that are able
to make their way 

between creek and ocean are
covered by the 

listing while steelhead blocked by 

dams or culverts are not, and
the only way to 

prove whether these fish are
migratory or not 

is to sample their otoliths,
or inner-ear bones. 

Those tests show whether the
mother of the 

fish or the fish itself had
ever been in the ocean 

(it is impossible to test the
paternal side). Even 

if the fish are determined to
not be migratory, 

NOAA’s Dan Logan says
that the Department of 

Fish and Game and the Water
Board still have 

“longstanding clear
authority to enforce state 

laws or regs that relate to
either unpermitted 

killing of wildlife or
introduction of chemicals 

to a waterway, either
chemicals put in for 

preparing the water for human
consumption or 

chemicals put in to

While the bodies of the dead
fish from Sau- 

sal Creek await testing at
NOAA laboratories, 

the Friends’ Kimra
McAfee said she hopes 

something can be done to
prevent any further, 

similar incidents.
“Maybe something good can 

come out of something
terrible. What’s sad is 

that we try to educate every
creek neighbor to 

do everything they possibly
can for the creek, 

and this is our utility
district—if they screw 

up, then poof, the fish are

coordinator at sausalcreek.org; 

jschroet at ebmud.com

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