Dozens of dead fish found in Berkeley creek

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife is investigating the cause of death for dozens of fish in Berkeley’s Codornices Creek.

Peter Tira, Public Information Officer with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, said two wildlife officers collected 63 endangered steelhead trout, 1 sculpin, and water samples from the creek on Thursday. The dead fish were discovered one day after firefighters used foam to extinguish a garbage truck that caught fire on Rose Street near California Street.

Mattahi Chakko, spokesman for the City of Berkeley, said firefighters responded to the garbage truck fire on Wednesday morning. Crews initially used water, but flames kept growing and got close to two propane tanks. The firefights made a decision to use foam to prevent an explosion in the residential neighborhood.

“They used a firefighting foam, which is a type of soap that is injected into the water, to suppress the fire,” Chakko said.

He said once the fire was out, the city sent trucks to vacuum up the remaining water and foam, but unfortunately roughly 20 gallons of foam made its way into storm drains which drains into Codornices Creek and ultimately the bay.

“We sent staff from four of our departments down to the creek where the contaminants had gone and we had crews on Wednesday and Thursday spend time at the creek looking for places where they could do clean up,” Chakko said.

The fire department notified several state agencies of the contamination, including the California Office of Emergency Services.

Ben Eichenberg, staff attorney at San Francisco Baykeeper, said he took samples from the creek too. The non-profit is conducting its own investigation of the dead fish.

“I would say with a high level of confidence it was the foam,” Eichenberg said. “I went and looked at the site where the fire was and there was still some foam in the storm drains there and that same foam was all along the creeks.”

Eichenberg said SF Baykeeper is looking into possible advocacy or legal option to ensure lessons are learned from the incident.

“This is a thriving urban creek that a lot of people have spent a lot of time restoring over the years,” he added. “We want to make sure the fire department does a better job of bringing in vacuum trucks, blocking up storm drains and doing whatever they can within the parameters of keeping everybody safe, which we’re grateful for them doing and they do a wonderful job.”