Cascarones are a time-honored tradition of Santa Barbara’s annual Fiesta celebration. More recently, these confetti-filled eggs have been noted for the pollution they cause in Santa Barbara’s creeks and ocean once their contents are washed down storm drains. This Fiesta, temporary filter fabric guards will be placed in the storm drains downtown to prevent confetti from traveling into the city’s water flow.
Although Facilities and Energy Manager Jim Dewey explains that the filters would be ineffective if kept in place forever, “We can’t keep the barriers over the storm drain inlets [permanently] because they would load up with debris and clog, causing flooding,” the filters offer a temporary solution during Fiesta. “The barriers allow water to pass through the membrane while trapping the confetti.”
Governing storm water regulations is the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) under the Clean Water Act and Santa Barbara’s Storm Water Management Program (SWMP), which describes Santa Barbara’s plan to preserve its water with a series of Best Management Practices (BMPs). The city implemented new BMPs and supplemental cleaning practices after the Solstice Parade in June 2015, which will continue to be used for upcoming Solstice, Fourth of July, and Fiesta celebrations.
Robert Richards, a concerned citizen who has been writing to local publications for the past few years regarding this issue, took samples of the confetti that remained on the street after this past Fourth of July Parade; he concluded that the samples were made up of Mylar, cellophane, glitter, paint, glues, dyed paper, and crushed eggs. Mylar and glitter are reflective substances that sea creatures often mistake for fishing hooks and that also take decades to break down. Dyed paper also releases its color, achieved through chemicals, upon contact with water.
According to Dewey, the confetti left on the streets of Santa Barbara has become a much more noticeable problem in recent years, therefore, both the city and community members have decided it is time to protect Santa Barbara’s natural resources.