From the headwaters along Donner Summit to the confluence of the Yuba and Feather Rivers, hundreds of people turned out for the South Yuba River Citizens League’s (SYRCL’s) annual Yuba River Cleanup on Saturday, September 21, 2019. The numbers are still rolling in from 33 sites. So far at least 900 volunteers removed more than 20,000 pounds of garbage and recyclables from 84 miles of rivers, creeks and lakes. Volunteers also assisted Nevada County by posting “No Swimming” advisory signs as a response to a yellow-colored plume of water that appeared along the South Yuba River the previous day.
“SYRCL’s Cleanup happened to take place during a critical NO SWIM ADVISORY that was issued by Nevada County’s Environmental Health Department,” said Melinda Booth. “Thankfully we were able to use our dedicated volunteer corps to help the County post signs for the public and get the word out.”
On Friday afternoon, September 20, SYRCL received photos from one of its members that showed yellowish, discolored water in the South Yuba River. SYRCL advised the public, Nevada County, State Parks and the California Office of Emergency Services. All relevant agencies began coordinating a response. To support this collaborative effort, SYRCL and partners conducted water quality testing throughout the South Fork of the Yuba. These data are still being analyzed.
Currently Nevada County Environmental Health Department’s “NO SWIM” advisory remains in effect, from the town of Washington to Englebright reservoir.
To ensure volunteer safety during the Cleanup, SYRCL asked volunteers to not swim and to stay at least 50 feet away from the edge of the river during their hours of cleaning and trash hauling.
“The yellow plume of discolored water was heartbreaking to see on Friday afternoon,” said Booth. “We knew we had to act right away by posting a video advisory and contacting our partners. Local and state government are taking this incident very seriously and are leading the investigation.”
Water sample tests revealed dangerous levels of E. coli bacteria at Highway 49 Crossing on Saturday, September 21. By Sunday, tests showed dramatically reduced levels. The cause of the plume is still under investigation.
The yellow sediment plume did not keep the community from pitching in to remove a summer’s worth of trash during the Yuba River Cleanup on Saturday. Dozens of families, school groups and businesses got their hands dirty for the betterment of trails, beaches and public areas surrounding our local waterways, including Gold Run Creek, Deer Creek, Wolf Creek, the Bear River, Englebright Lake, and Kentucky Ravine. Volunteers ranged from nine-months old to 80 years old and they removed an array of items out of the river including scooters, roofing shingles, a pink flamingo in camouflage, tires, couches, fence parts and more.