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

Mark Rauzon mjrauz at aol.com
Thu Sep 30 10:40:09 PDT 2010

Thank you Camille and Gus for this analysis that probably would never have been made otherwise.
Here is a case of EBMUD working in the area with toxic chemisty and pushing responsiblility off on other reasons. We should expect and demand a greater community sense of responsibility from our utilities. I hope the City powers that be make this case and be heard.
Thanks again,
Mark Rauzon

-----Original Message-----
From: Camille Nowell <camille_fawne at hotmail.com>
To: fosc at lists.sausalcreek.org
Sent: Thu, Sep 30, 2010 9:28 am
Subject: [Fosc] FW: media coverage of FOSC!!!


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 mouth. 


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— 

especially recently—tears. 


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 spawning. 

On August 5, as the city’s Kristin Hathaway 

was walking the stream with consultants 

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 dechlorinated. According to 

an East Bay MUD report, the superchlorinated 

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 plant. 

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 chloramines 

(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 chloramine 

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 activities. 


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 

“threatened” 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 dechlorinate.” 

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 gone.” 

CONTACT: coordinator at sausalcreek.org; 

jschroet at ebmud.com   

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