Thursday, April 9, 2015

City Council Presentation - April 7, 2014

Below is a link to the six-minute presentation by April Squires and I to the Alameda's City Council on our concerns about the October toxic spill. Our presentation begins about 6:28 into the clip.

We also supplied a .pdf file containing my photo essay and a Powerpoint file with many other details. This file is available free upon request.

With this formal presentation, the city staff and council members are on record as having been duly and thoroughly informed of a serious environmental threat affecting not just a few hundred birds, but the community served by the council and the entire Bay Area populace whose lives are potentially affected by toxic emissions into our delicate ecosystem.

Below is a full transcript of our six minute presentation:

APRIL 7, 2015

Section 1 - Comments by April B. Squires

 Around 4 o'clock on the afternoon of October 12,  2014, I watched a floating expanse of grayish-brown sludge enter San Leandro Bay from the direction of Alameda's Otis Street Bridge. The plume moved slowly and curled around the eastern tip of Alameda Island, then entered the Oakland-Alameda Estuary. Mr. Heying and I continued watching, following the plume from a footpath on the Oakland side of the estuary. Around 5:30PM we observed the plume from directly above on the Fruitvale Bridge. 

By that time the plume extended from San Leandro Bay westward past the Park Street bridge.  It was greyish-brown and had a thick, gel-like, almost foamy consistency unlike anything I had ever seen. The plume was about fifteen feet wide and maybe 20 foot long segments, imbedded with some clumps of grass with roots attached and other debris, including straws, paper cups and pieces of wood. There were occasional breaks in the plume where there was a thin oily sheen.

Around 6 PM Mr. Heying borrowed my cell phone and called 911. I listened as he was first connected with CHP, then the Alameda Fire Department. I heard him describe the sludge and tell the other party that he would remain in the area at the Nob Hill parking lot and be available by cell phone if he was needed. I heard him give his cell phone number so he could be contacted. Mr. Heying told me, "They said they would send a truck.”

Because it was getting dark and cold, Mr. Heying and I had coffee at Peet's at Nob Hill Grocery, sitting where we could see the Fruitvale Bridge, expecting to hear a siren. After about an hour, when there was no siren or fire truck, I left and Mr. Heying said he would return to the bridge and try again.

Issues that concern me going forward:

  1. The insufficient response resulting from two 911 calls.  I learned that it is likely that response is inadequate because there is no protocol in place for first-responders in pollution cases that are not petroleum-based.

  1. That the City of Alameda should establish its own protocol to protect the marine life we all enjoy as well as public safety of residents and visitors who enjoy the beaches.  The mayor should create a commission and a citizen advisory committee.

  1. That the proposed SB 718 by California state senators Mark Leno and Lori Hancock delineates procedures to report pollution events, identify causes, hold accountable polluters and create and promote citizen reporting and involvement.  The mayor should ensure that the City’s protocol is integrated with the senate bill.

Section 2 - Comments by Monty J Heying

 I investigated the plume that Ms. Squires and I observed, and here some of my facts and conclusions.


  1. Alameda's finger lagoons underwent extensive dredging during the first two weeks of October, 2014.
  2. Dredging solids from these lagoons were dumped in a toxic "hot spot" at Alameda Point, and the residual liquids were released through the lagoon portal into San Francisco Bay.
  3. Two months later a "Grey Mystery Goo" killed and injured hundreds of seabirds along the shores of Alameda, San Leandro and Hayward, and a bird rescue non-profit's budget has been drained.
  4. Chemical analysis by Cal Fish and Wildlife has not ruled out lagoon dredgings as the source of the Mystery Goo.*
  5. Cal Fish and Wildlife took samples from near the lagoon portal to test and compare with the Mystery Goo.
  6. I saw an employee of Clean Lakes, Inc.* taking a lagoon water sample.
  7. Per their web site, Clean Lakes uses toxic agricultural chemicals to "clarify" inland waterways. One such product is “…absorbed and trans-located by aquatic plant foliage, interfering with plant metabolism." Another is "…a contact herbicide effective against a broad range of aquatic plants." Clean Lakes also uses surfactants, which are chemical compounds that can emulsify dissolved and undissolved solids and render them floatable. (Image 1kc)
  8. Degradation of marine habitat near the lagoon portal is evident. (Images 1y & 1zz)
  9. Here is a photo showing a foaming agent, a possible surfactant, in the lagoons. Notice the grey fringe where the white foam meets the water as if a chemical change is taking place. (Image 1kc)
*Rinderneck quote: "...  silicone fluids, tung oils, resins or rosin oils, animal fats, and edible or inedible seed oils from plants"


  1. The timing, flow direction and content of the October sludge plume are consistent with Alameda's lagoon dredging and the Mystery Goo.
  2. Additional sampling and analysis are required to prove linkage between the Goo and the lagoons.
  3. Further investigation is needed to determine the extent of environmental damage and the  risk of relying on toxic chemicals to maintain the aging finger lagoons.
  4. We need further study to determine the extent to which a new era of catastrophic environmental risk to the marine ecosystem of San Leandro Bay has been brought about by changes in tidal currents due to drought-related sediment build-up.
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*Clean Lakes, Inc.'s web site.

 ARI is another company specializing in inland waterway clarification: ARI's web site

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