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Permanente Creek Clean-up Yields Lots of Debris And a Few Surprises

Greentown Los Altos' version of National Rivers Day turns up five pounds of balls, an art-project-worthy Coke can, and um, bags of dog poop.

It's amazing what you can find when you go looking in your local creek.

Led by organizer Barbara O'Reilly, a couple dozen hardy volunteers mustered at Heritage Oaks Park in Los Altos Saturday morning, and set to work for two hours on the Permanente Creek diversion channel.

Surrounded on three sides by concrete, it's not the section of creek that might inspire poetry or skipping of stones, but it's a part that needed cleaning.

The volunteers collected a wide variety of debris, Karen Janowski, a member of Greentown Los Altos, which adopted that section of the creek. This included cigarette butts, small scraps of plastic, building materials, like asphalt shingles, metal scraps, lots of candy wrappers, plastic bags, bottles, cans.

There were some unusual finds, Janowski reported. How unusual? 

"Like an antique Coca-Cola can, bags of dog poop, a toothbrush, part of a $20 bill, 5 pounds of balls (golf, tennis, soccer, playground, foam/nerf, wiffle)," she wrote in an email Saturday afternoon. She guesses the Coca-Cola can to be "at least 30-40 years old."

"And all this came from a relatively clean part of the creek bed," she added. 

Volunteers also noted bright green algae growing, which while colorful, is a bad sign, Janowski said. "This is not a good thing, as it chokes off the natural habitats, Janoswki said. "It’s aided by excessive levels of nitrogen from lawn fertilizers and such."

 As for the Coke can, residents will get a chance to see it for themselves this fall in a museum near you. How so? Well, garbage does have its uses. 

It will be part of an art piece being fashioned by Hannah Butensky, a Girl Scout Gold Award candidate who helped to organize this event. The artwork will be displayed as part of the water exhibit coming to the Los Altos History Museum in the fall.

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