The Contra Costa County Grand Jury has performed a major service by highlighting a significant problem in the Delta: the accumulation of abandoned vessels, dilapidated buildings, pilings, junk and other debris.
This aquatic junkyard, as the Grand Jury report dubs it, is not only an eyesore; it poses a significant danger for boaters who run into sunken debris, and it may well be polluting the drinking water for much of California.
The Grand Jury points out that these waterways and shorelines are under control of the county. It also points out that the county, while removing more than 300 abandoned vessels in the past 20 years, has not done the cleanup job that is necessary because much junk still remains.
The Grand Jury recommends the formation of a county task force to develop a plan for the cleanup of the county's waterways and shoreline that includes the county sheriff's office, and public works and health departments. While this is a good step in the right direction, we have concerns about the outcome, given the county's limited funds to implement the plan and its underwhelming performance on issues such as fire protection in East County.
Because so much is at stake in the Delta for East County residents, we recommend that representatives from Antioch, Brentwood, Discovery Bay, Oakley, Pittsburg and the Contra Costa Water District join this task force, and that these communities contribute financially, if possible, to help clean up this junkyard in our backyard.
There may also be opportunities for local yacht and fishing clubs, community service organizations and environmental groups to get involved by adopting a waterway or shoreline area, similar to the Adopt-A-Highway program.
It's a big problem no one even knows how much junk is out there both visible and submerged. But much is at stake in cleaning up the waterways and shorelines that provide so much beauty, recreation and vital drinking water for East County. The sooner we can start doing something about it, the better.