Pollution Problems

A Quick Guide To Potential Creek Pollution Problems

How do you know when you’ve spotted a problem?


There will be many instances when you see something in the creek and don’t know if it is a problem or a naturally occurring event. This page lists some of the situations where confusion can occur. If you think you’ve spotted pollution in the creek, please report it!

a pollution incident occurring, report it IMMEDIATELY to the local Police Department.
Be prepared to give a full description of the person(s) dumping, a description of their motor vehicle, and , if possible, the license plate number.

EMERGENCIES: Certain calls CANNOT wait.
Call 911 if there is a situation that is a threat to human health.
Call the Department of Fish and Game at (916) 445-0045 if there is an oil spill.


  • see an oily sheen or discoloration on the water, call the California Office of Emergency Services at (800) 852-7550.
  • find a water diversion, call the State Water Resources Control Board at (916) 657-1361.
  • notice an irregularity in outfall flows, call the Alameda County Flood Control and Water Conservation District at (510) 670-5480.
  • see foam that may be from sewage, soap, or synthetics, call the California Office of Emergency Services at (800) 852-7550.
  • discover a fish kill that is probably caused by pollution, call the California Office of Emergency Services at (800) 852-7550.
  • smell an unusual odor that is likely to be a pollutant, call the California Office of Emergency Services at (800) 852-7550.
  • see an unusual coloration in the creekbed or on the banks, call the California Office of Emergency Services at (800) 852-7550.
Other useful numbers to know:
Recycling Information   Mosquito Abatement District
(510) 639-2498   (510) 783-7744
East Bay M.U.D. Public Information Line   Alameda County Clean Water Program
(510) 287-0138   (510) 670-5543
Oakland Clean Water Program   Shopping Cart Pickup
(510) 238-6544   (510) 577-3400
San Leandro Street and Manhole Maintenance   Oakland Street Maintenance
(510) 577-3449   (510) 615-5566
Oakland 24 Hour Sewer Maintenance Hot Line   Alameda County Animal Control
(510) 615-5566   (510) 667-7763
for unincorporated areas only
San Leandro Animal Control   Oakland Animal Control
(510) 577-3206   (510) 535-5602
Oakland, “We Mean Clean” Hotline   San Leandro Creek Watershed Awareness Program/Friends of San Leandro Creek
(510) 238-7630   (510) 577-6069
to report water pollution incidents, to organize creek clean-ups, to stencil storm drains


Water diversions are illegal unless a Riparian Right permit to withdraw water has been obtained. Chances are, a water pump or a hose from a backyard in a suburban neighborhood is illegal. Report it.

A discharge pipe is illegal unless a permit has been authorized. If a pipe is flowing into the creek from someone’s backyard, chances are, it’s illegal. Report it.

After the first rains of the year, creek water is often covered with an irridescent sheen from storm water washing over oily streets and parking lots on its way to the creek. If an oily sheen is seen at any time other than after the first few rain storms, or right below an outfall, report it.

Decomposing bay leaves can give off an oily or hydrocarbon-like smell. However, other smells can be symptoms of serious problems. If you smell sulfur or sewage, consider it unusual and report it.

Ground water can seep into storm drain systems and flow out of outfalls even during dry weather. However, water that comes out off an outfall in late summer or early fall, when ground water levels are low, may indicate a problem. It may come from clean water from landscape watering, may be water containing soap, cooling tower water discharge that contains heavy metals, or swimming pool, spa, or pond discharge containing algicides or chlorine. If running water is seen coming from an outfall during the dry season, report it.

Foam seen on bodies of water can be produced from either natural or synthetic sources.

Naturally occurring foam is produced when oxygen combines with plant debris and animal waste products. It is most apparent on windy days or when the water is turbulent. It may have a green or golden-brown tinge.

Foam from synthetic products, such as detergents or soap, persists for a longer period of time and travels farther downstream. Look for an iridescent sheen on the bubbles or a concentration of bubbles near an outfall. If this occurs, report it.

As water levels fall in the creek during the summer, fish are trapped in isolated pools. As these pools shrink in size and the air temperature rises, water temperature increases and oxygen is lost to the atmosphere. Trout are the first to die in a shrinking pool because of their sensitivity to warmer temperatures and low oxygen levels.

There was probably a pollution incident if you see dead fish:

  • in running water,
  • in pools covered with an iridescent sheen or floating debris,
  • in pools with an unusual coloration or cloudiness, or
  • in water that emits an odor.

Report it.

The San Leandro Creek Watershed Awareness Program is funded by the Alameda County Flood Control and Water Conservation District with assistance from the City of San Leandro and implemented by the Friends of San Leandro Creek.