Los Alamitos is a seven-mile stretch of creek in the Guadalupe Watershed that becomes the Guadalupe River at its confluence with Guadalupe Creek at Almaden Lake Park. Its five-mile proximity to the New Almaden Quicksilver Mines increased its vulnerability to mercury contamination, but recent cleanup efforts by the Santa Clara Valley Water District have succeeded in curtailing some of the levels in the creek.
About the project
With the passage of a parcel tax in 2000 to fund the water district’s Clean, Safe Creeks and Natural Flood Protection program, cleanup started of various sites along the creek identified in 2003 as containing eroding mine waste. The work on the water district’s designated property removed an average of 1,000 pounds of mercury contamination, leaving Alamitos in better shape than in past years.
However, several private properties along the creek still contain substantial, though undetermined amount of deposits that contaminate the creek beyond natural levels. Warning signs to not eat fish caught in the creek run the length of its course.
There is no requirement for these property owners to clean up eroding mine waste under the Total Maximum Daily Load, a calculation of the maximum amount of pollutant a water body can receive and still meet water quality standards. The district cannot work on such properties so the long term prognosis remains one that the agency will work to address.
For more information about this project, contact Keiron Nawbatt, Santa Clara Valley Water District, at (408) 265-2600, ext. 2896.