By Steve Large

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – The first big rain of the year is flushing massive amounts of debris from homeless camps down the American River in Sacramento County, and into California waterways.

The storm hit just as the state’s Water Quality Control Board begins to look at the pollution problem along the river. The rising water is pushing more waste into the river in an area that is also home to wildlife.

Lisa Lindberg lives nearby. She keeps a folder of the river waste she sees every day.

“I think its been way too long and not enough has been done,” Lindberg said.

Sacramento County supervisors approved $5 million for new ranger and maintenance positions last year to clean up the mess. A county spokesperson says crews pulled out 6 tons of debris last week, yet tons of trash remains.

The California Water Quality Control District 5 is planning to convene a panel to address the toxic water problems.

Geologist Roland Brady will serve on the panel.

“It’s a health issue,” Brady said. “You know there’s E.coli, there’s fecal-born coliform in this water from these buckets and their toilets that are all along the stream.”

A winter homeless shelter that opened in December is blocks away from the encampments. Its impact is not leading to a cleaner American River.

“I am beside myself,” Lindberg said. “I worry about my community. I’m worried about the drinking quality of the water. I’m worried about the homeless people.”

It’s supposed to be Sacramento’s scenic American River. But after the big rain, it’s a scene of squalor.

The state panel on water quality will include city and county officials.

No date for the first meeting has been set.

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