Who to contact
TOURS: 650-838-2901 (temporarily unavailable due to COVID)
Report hazardous spills, illegal dumping, storm drain blockages, sanitary sewer backups or overflows in your community.
Not finding what you need?
Call the City of Palo Alto Public Works - Watershed Protection at 650-329-2122 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
MAP & Directions
To the City of Palo Alto Regional Water Quality Control Plant and the Household Hazardous Waste Station.
You can help protect San Francisco Bay and local creeks every time you use a drop of water in or around your home.
Pool party! We love to swim and my family loves the Bay. We clean and maintain our pool so that water and pool chemicals stay out of stormdrains because they carry water right into our creeks and Bay.
Cars make air and water pollution so keep your car in good shape. Have it serviced at a Clean Bay Business autoshop.
Less is better when it comes to household chemicals. We avoid buying too many cleaners, pesticides and other chemicals. When we have something to get rid of we bring it to the Palo Alto Household Hazardous Waste Station.
Pesticides don't belong on kids, pets or in our creeks. Here's what local pest pros say to control ants and garden pests.
Toilets are not trashcans! Cotton swabs, dental floss, cat litter, wet wipes, sanitary products, and toys should not be flushed— even if the packaging says it’s okay. They can cause sewer backups into your house, onto streets or into creeks. See what Consumer Reports say about this!
When we clean out our medicine cabinet we bring unwanted medications to a drop off location in town. We never flush them down sinks or toilets or put them in the trash.
Microbeads are tiny bits of plastic that make thier way into the Bay from wind or wastewater. We don't need them and neither does the Bay so avoid soaps and shampoos that list plastic microbeads as an ingredient (look for ingredients labeled polyethylene or polypropylene. Learn more about microplastic pollution in the Bay.
My mom's a doctor and she keeps antibacterial soap and other antibacterial products out of our house because they're not healthy for people or the Bay.
“Have you ever cleaned up a backed up sink? Not fun! Keep grease and cooking oil out of sink drains, garbage disposals and toilets. Contact your local waste hauler for proper disposal options”
Creek critters die in chlorinated water! Drain pools and fountains to a sanitary sewer cleanout and never to storm drains which lead to creeks.
Water used in and around homes in the RWQCP service area travels to San Francisco Bay. Sink, shower, and toilet water travels to the RWQCP for wastewater treatment where biological wastes are removed. Stormwater travels to creeks and the Bay without treatment. Visit the Bay-friendly family above, click on the water drops and see how they help San Francisco Bay and creeks every day...from home!
» Pest Management (Bay-safe, people-friendly)
» Medicine Disposal
» Household Hazardous Waste Disposal
» Keep Plastics out of Creeks and the Bay
» Your Toilet is not a Trashcan
» Draining and Cleaning Pools
» Fats, Oils, and Grease
» RV Disposal Locations
Residential pesticide use by homeowners and pest control services is the main source of pesticide pollution in San Francisco Bay. Spray pesticides used for ant control are one of the largest contributors. These and other pesticides wash into storm drains and creeks during rain or when you water your garden.
Look for this symbol for effective, Bay-friendly garden products:
- Click here for local stores that carry products with the Our Water Our World symbol.
- Visit ourwaterourworld.org for information from professionals on how to control pests. Use the "Ask the Expert" tab for specific advice!
- Looking for a pest control service? Ask for EcoWise Certified. Visit ecowisecertified.org or call 866.858.6386 for companies using less-toxic products and techniques that really work, and are safer for people and the planet.
- Check out South Bay Green Gardens for sustainable gardening resources like compost and mulch fact sheets and tips, a workshop and events calendar, irrigation and pest management tips, beautiful pre-made landscape designs, and much more. Happy sustainable gardening!
No Drugs Down the Drain
U.S. Geological Survey studies have found hormone medications, antidepressants and antibiotics in San Francisco Bay coming from the disposal of unwanted drugs down sinks and toilets, and from human waste. Sewage treatment plants are not designed to remove all the substances contained in medications.
- Never dispose medicines down sinks or toilets
- Bring unwanted medication along with other household hazardous waste to a household hazardous waste facility
- Stop by a participating pharmacy to drop off medication in their safe-disposal kiosk
- For medicine and sharps disposal questions, call 650.329.2122.
Reduce Plastics in Our Creeks and San Francisco Bay
Plastic comprises 60% of the litter found in Santa Clara County creeks. Plastic bags, plastic foam products (such as Styrofoam™), beverage containers, and other plastic debris are carried by wind and storm drains into creeks, the Bay and Pacific Ocean.
Here's how you can help reduce plastics in our waterways:
- Use reusable shopping bags for all grocery store and retail shopping
- Use reusable water bottles and travel mugs
- Local creek cleanups make a difference! Visit cleanacreek.org to find a cleanup site near you during National River Cleanup Day (May) and Coastal Cleanup Day (September).
- Request that your local newspaper carrier use a plastic bag only when it rains.
- Learn more at plasticfreeguide.com
Palo Alto prohibits the use single-use plastic checkout bags and plastic foam products or packaging at all Palo Alto retailers and restaurants. For more information:
Toilets Are Not Trashcans
The label on the baby wipes and kitty litter package claims that it's "Flushable," but is it really? Since cotton balls break apart, are they ok to flush down a toilet? None of these items should be flushed down a toilet.
"Flushable" wipes are usually made from plastic resins, don't disintegrate like toilet paper, and contribute to costly sewage back-ups. These can be harmful to the environment if the overflow reaches the street's storm drain. Cotton balls become soggy and get trapped in the pipes, causing serious backups as well. Only three things should be flushed: water, human waste and toilet paper!
Other items that should never be flushed:
- Hazardous wastes such as medications, paints, chemicals, pesticides and fertilizers
- Dental floss & band aids
- Kitty litter
- Feminine hygiene products
- Cooking grease and oil
- Cigarette butts
- Paper towels
- Disposable diapers
- All types of wipes including cosmetic, cleaning, "disposable" and "natural" types
Fats, Oils and Grease
Pouring fats, oils and grease (FOG) into the sanitary sewer system is an environmental and public health issue. FOG builds up in sewer lines and clogs pipes causing backups and raw sewage overflows onto streets, storm drains, and creeks.
To prevent sewer backups: Never pour grease or cooking oil down sink drains, garbage disposals or into toilets. Put baskets/strainers in sink drains to catch food scraps and other solids, and empty the drain baskets/strainers into the compost cart (if available in your area).
- Palo Alto:
- For small amounts of oil and grease, consolidate them into a compostable container such as a milk carton and place in your green compost cart—cityofpaloalto.org/foodscraps
- Bring large amounts of unwanted cooking oil (salad dressing, fryer oil) to the Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) Station—cityofpaloalto.org/hazwaste
For other service area cities, contact your local waste hauler for proper disposal options:
Maintaining your pool, spa or fountain
- Clean regularly and maintain proper chlorine levels.
- Never clean pool filters in the street, gutter or storm drain.
- Rinse cartridge filter onto a dirt area and spade filter residue into the soil. Backwash sand and diatomaceous earth filters onto a dirt area. Keep backwash discharges out of the street and storm drain. Dispose of spent filter materials in the trash.
- Test water frequently and adjust the pH, total alkalinity, hardness and dissolved solid levels as recommended by your pool manufacturer. This is extra important during warm weather or heavy pool use.
- Ask your pool maintenance service to use an alternative to copper algaecides such as:
- Polymeric algaecide
- Sodium bromide
- Chlorine or chlorine-enhancers
- Hypochloritecontaining shock treatments
- If draining your pool is necessary, discharge the water to a sanitary sewer cleanout (never street, or stormdrain).The sewer line clean-out is usually located in the front landscaped area or near the sidewalk, and marked with an "S". The clean-out will have a small circular cap. How to find your clean-out.
- For septic systems, contact Palo Alto Water Quality Control Plant 650-329-2598.
Dumping sewage and/or wastewater from recreational vehicles onto streets or storm drains is illegal and harmful to public health and to the environment.
Need to dispose of your waste?
Find a disposal site near you.