Why is Pollution Prevention Week Important?

“It is our responsibility to protect the environment because we depend on it, yet it can’t protect itself from us,” said Autumn Cleave, SFPUC Pollution Prevention Specialist.

For Cleave, Pollution Prevention Week is about educating San Francisco residents on the simple everyday steps that they can take to become environmental stewards.

“The changes we make today helps ensure that we have high quality recoverable resources, like recycled water and biosolids. During Pollution Prevention Week and every week of the year, these efforts we are all making is helping us become more sustainable and decreases our environmental footprint,” said Cleave.

Autumn Cleave, SFPUC Pollution Prevention Specialist (left), speaking with community members at an event.

The SFPUC’s Pollution Prevention Program aims to reduce the amount of pollutants entering the City’s combined sewer system and surrounding waterways by controlling them at the source. The Pollution Prevention Program utilizes public education, outreach and legislation to tackle specific pollutants that cause issues for San Francisco’s treatment plants, are toxic to humans and harmful to aquatic ecosystems.

Cleave shared about why the SFPUC’s Pollution Prevention Program is important, “We care about pollution prevention because what goes down the drain can be taxing to our sewer system and treatment plant, and more importantly can harm our environment.”

Cleave says that wipes should not be flushed down the toilet as they get caught in hard-to-reach places and damage treatment plant equipment; medicines thrown down drains and flushed down toilets dissolve and end up in biosolids or effluent (the treated liquid portion of wastewater); fats, oils and grease clog the City’s pipes and cause foul odors and sewage backups.

The Battle for the Bay Coastal Cleanup Challenge will have hundreds of volunteers this coming weekend.

“The SFPUC’s mission is to protect public health and the environment, so what enters the sewer system is our responsibility,” reminded Cleave.

One major event during Pollution Prevention Week is the Battle for the Bay Coastal Cleanup Challenge. The friendly competition among San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose will take place on Saturday, September 21, organizing hundreds of volunteers throughout the Bay Area. The Coastal Cleanup event aims to gather participants at the water’s edge and pick up trash and debris to keep parks, neighborhoods, and shorelines clean, safe and healthy for all residents.

Pollution Prevention Week is held during the third week of September each year.

Coastal Cleanup Day is happening Saturday, September 21.