By Susie Steimle

OAKLAND (KPIX 5) – There’s a trash problem in Oakland that’s so bad, it’s polluting the San Francisco Bay.

Now Oakland could have to pay up, if it doesn’t clean up its garbage.

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It’s an ultimatum to Oakland, to cut down on trash or face a hefty fine.

The piles of waste, some from homeless encampments around the city, are more than just an eyesore.

Whether it’s fast food wrappers, cigarette butts, illegal dumping, or what’s left around homeless encampments, the Bay Area has a trash problem, and the city of Oakland is at the center of it.

Tom Mumley with the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board said, “They’re further away from the target than any other community in the area.”

Oakland is on a list of 76 municipalities required to reduce the amount of trash sent into the San Francisco Bay.

If Oakland doesn’t reduce trash in its waterways by 70 percent in the next month it could face considerable fines and even legal action.

Mumley said, “They could be liable for penalties up to $10,000 a day for violations. That would be worst-case scenario.”

Water in Lion Creek flows directly out into the San Francisco Bay. In 2009, the water quality control board set a goal of reducing the amount of waste in Oakland’s waterways by 60 percent by July of 2016. Oakland did not meet that goal.

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The board set another goal of reducing waste by 70 percent in waterways by July of this year, Oakland isn’t expected to meet that goal either.

David Lewis, Save The Bay’s executive director said, “The trash isn’t just unsightly it’s actually hurting fish and wildlife in the bay. It’s poisoning the bay environment and it’s a public health hazard.”

He thinks the city isn’t doing enough and worries enforcement isn’t strong enough.

For example, the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board won’t fine Oakland if it comes up with a plan explaining how it will reduce waste — even if it doesn’t reach the 70 percent goal.

Mumley said, “It’s really a societal challenge, we have to change our ways and be less willing to throw away, more willing to pick up.”

But Lewis says enforcement is key.

Lewis said, “The reason we have regulations to reduce trash in the bay is because you can’t just change behavior by telling people to stop littering.”

The city of Oakland has reduced the amount of waste in their waterways by 45 percent over the last year, which is still a far cry from the goal of 70 percent.

The Bay Area as a whole has reduced the amount of waste in its waterways by 50 percent since 1990.

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Each year the regulations for the amount of trash allowed in the bay becomes more strict. The goal is to have zero trash in storm water by 2022.