2.5 billion gallons of Bay water saved from potential mercury contamination

February 7, 2005

East Bay Municipal Utility District and Save The Bay collected almost 400 glass mercury thermometers during a three-day thermometer exchange program in Oakland last week. The amount of mercury in 400 thermometers could potentially contaminate 2.5 billions gallons of water.  The thermometer exchange program kicked off Save The Bay and EBMUD’s public education campaign to teach Bay Area residents what they can do to reduce everyday pollution that harms our Bay. 

About ten percent of the mercury contained in Bay Area wastewater is attributed to the breakage of mercury thermometers, making thermometers the single greatest residential source of mercury pollution.  Mercury from thermometers can enter San Francisco Bay through the sanitary sewer system when a thermometer breaks and spills into a sink. 

The elemental mercury found in thermometers is a silver-colored liquid that is currently one of the greatest threats to the health of the Bay and is highly toxic to the human nervous system, kidneys and other organs.  During the thermometer exchange, residents traded glass thermometers containing mercury for a free safe digital thermometer.

Other major residential sources of mercury pollution include dental amalgams, fluorescent light bulbs, thermostats, barometers, and some light switches and relays.

Save The Bay and EBMUD’s public education campaign will consist of a variety of events during the next year that will involve residents in protecting the Bay, including future mercury thermometer exchanges, a prescription drug drop off and a Bay-friendly car wash.  For more information on upcoming events, residents can check Save The Bay’s website at www.savesfbay.org.

About Save The Bay

Save The Bay is the oldest and largest organization working exclusively to celebrate, protect and restore San Francisco Bay.  Save The Bay wages campaigns to reduce the impacts of urban sprawl and pollution and to create public access.  At the core of this work is a commitment to improving the Bay’s health while building and deepening Bay Area residents’ connection to the Bay and strengthening community ties through watershed education and restoration programs.  Save The Bay is a 501(c) 3 non-profit.

About East Bay MUD

EBMUD is a water and wastewater utility that serves more than 1.3 million people in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties, and is a recognized leader in pollution prevention activities that protect San Francisco Bay.  EBMUD recently received the National Clean Water Act Pretreatment Award for a record fourth time.  This award recognizes EBMUD’s exemplary longtime efforts to regulate the discharge of industrial pollutants and toxics to its wastewater treatment plant, reduce sewer overflow events in the collection systems and educate businesses and the public on how everyone can help protect San Francisco Bay.  EBMUD has also recently reached five consecutive years of full compliance for all discharges of treated wastewater to San Francisco Bay, qualifying for a national Platinum Award for wastewater treatment excellence by the American Metropolitan Sewerage Agencies.