By Melissa Aguirre

SAN ANTONIO – Some San Antonians had an early start the week of March 23 when the rumbles of thunder and rain neared their homes. The storm began as early as 1:40 a.m. and continued throughout the night.

San Antonio had a significant amount of rainfall that Tuesday, receiving over an inch near the AT&T Center.

But, besides waking up to ruffled up leaves and a wet street, residents near the Elmendorf Lake Park area woke up to a lake full of trash.

OLLU campus overlooks Elmendorf Lake

The runoff stormwater flowed into Elmendorf Lake along with trash and debris. Trash was visible the entire span of the lake in both directions.

Our Lady of the Lake University (OLLU) overlooks the lake; students and residents often go out for a walk to enjoy the fresh air and different amenities throughout the park.

Laura Miguel, mass communication student, said it was a distraction from the beautiful campus and conflicts with the values of OLLU.

San Antonio Parks and Recreation department maintain several parks and natural waterways throughout San Antonio and said a mass clean-up such as this would take several days.

“Parks and Recreation have a dedicated waterways team that provides weekly scheduled maintenance and trash clean-up to over 10 waterways within parks, including ponds, lakes or rivers,” said Connie Swann, marketing manager for San Antonio Parks & Recreation Department.

San Antonio Parks & Recreation employees gather collect found on the banks of Elmendorf Lake

Rainfall-runoff transports pollutants and anything not disposed of properly into our rivers and creeks, creating an inhabitable environment for fish, plants and animals. These pollutants make the water unsafe for swimming and fishing and pose a serious threat to wildlife.

Local resident enjoying a leisure afternoon on Elmendorf Lake

According to the Clean Water Act section 502(6), the term pollutant is defined broadly and includes any types of agricultural, industrial and municipal waste discharged into water.

The San Antonio community have enjoyed San Antonio’s rivers, creeks and natural waterways throughout the years . The natural waterways give people an opportunity to enjoy the outdoors, exercise and destress.

Area residents picnic and bbq on the banks on Elmendorf Lake

“I come here often, and I was shocked to see the trash; it was a lot,” said Jorge Alvarez San Antonio resident.

According to Swann, maintenance was set to start the day after the storm.

“These clean-up efforts from the storm are expected to take several days,” Swann said.

As our population and developments increase, so does water pollution. Each time it rains or floods, everything not appropriately discarded, or that is dumped or tossed on the ground is a potential pollutant that may wash down into our storm drains and contaminate our waterways.

Elmendorf Lake full of trash the morning after thunderstorm

“Do your part; if you see something, do something,” Alvarez said. “If everyone would just picked up five things a day, that would make a difference.”

Every action can have a positive or negative effect on our environment.

“Properly disposing of trash is a great step to keeping our waterways clean,” Swann said. “Following the Leave No Trace principles of ‘Pack It In/Pack It Out’ also helps prevent the trash from running into the lake after storm events.”

Wildlife on Elmendorf Lake

Another way to help the community is to dispose of trash at home instead of the park, recycling and using eco-friendly products. In doing so, you are helping to ensure a healthy ecosystem for aquatic life, wildlife and recreation opportunities for present and future generations to enjoy.

Elmendorf Lake on a sunny day before thunder storm

Elemendorf Lake is located at 3700 W. Commerce St., and is a recreational site for San Antonio’s residents and visitors. It is managed by San Antonio River Authority. Elmendorf Lake Park recently underwent an improvement project estimated at $16.2 million.

Illegal dumping is against the law in the city of San Antonio. You may report suspected criminal dumping cases in San Antonio by calling the City’s Customer Service 3-1-1 hotline. To report illegal dumpsites found in Bexar County, call (210) 335-6700.

For more information on the Clean Rivers Program, please visit the TCEQ CRP website.

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