SARA Addressing Trash & Debris Problem In Olmos Basin With Strategic Cleanup Plan

May 21, 2014

Local resident Lissa Martinez talks with an engineer about hot spots where trash and debris collect along the Olmos Creek Watershed.
Credit Eileen Pace / TPR News

The San Antonio River Authority has begun a process to clean up trash and debris that end up in Olmos Basin. Officials are working on a project to remove much of the trash dumped in far northwest Bexar County before it winds up in the San Antonio River.

Local residents offered their input at a recent SARA event, pointing out hotspots where they’ve seen trash collecting along tributaries that run into Olmos Basin.

Lissa Martinez is an area resident who’s been watching the trash patterns for a number of years. She has recorded photos of numerous North Side locations where she said streets dead end into the tributaries and have no barricades to prevent trash dumping.

"There's one place on Recoleta where I took a picture in February, and I went back and took a picture in March and the same bag of trash was still there," Martinez said. "So it doesn't automatically flow in, but the big stuff -- the couches, the chairs -- those things don't come in because somebody had a picnic and forgot to put their stuff in the trash."

Martinez has found trash in all shapes and sizes; from mattresses to Styrofoam cups. Some residents talked about large amounts of debris emptied from dumpsters. But the little trash is a big problem too.

"Even on Google Maps; when you zoom in enough, you can see the trash," said Laura Sampson, an engineer-in-training with HDR Consultants. Sampson said it will take a multi-prong approach to collect trash along all the tributaries where trash begins.

"The Northwest end is north of Shavano Park, kind of bounded by I-10 and Loop 1604," Sampson said. "There are all sorts of tributaries: There's the main stem of Olmos Creek, there's Rock Creek, and there's the west end of Olmos Creek, there's up near the airport. There's all sorts of areas where we could collect trash before it reaches the (Olmos) Park."

Olmos Basin map.
Credit SARA

Karen Bishop, leader of the Sustainable Watersheds Program at SARA, said a grant from the Jack and Valerie Guenther Foundation has allowed them to plan a watershed cleanup program. It started with the public input event last week where residents shared where they see trash problems.

"Anything that they have ideas about, we're collecting the information on," Bishop said. "And then the consultants are going to be making recommendations as to the kinds of permanently-installed trash collection systems that would be appropriate for the watershed, how many there would need to be, and where they would need to be placed."

The cities of San Antonio and Alamo Heights are also participating in the project. Bishop said engineers will have the study ready to present to those cities’ leaders by September.