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Stop Dumping Your Car Oil Here, Pleads a San Francisco Mural

For some reason Bayview-Hunters Point is a magnet for petro-slinging polluters.


Some community murals celebrate diversity or decry violence. New public artwork in San Francisco has a narrower message: Stop dumping your damn motor oil in the streets.

The 100-foot-long mural is located on a wall in the Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood, which for some reason has long been a favorite spot for the illicit disposal of petroleum. In it, a pipe drips yellowish, toxic-looking goo into the San Francisco Bay, while sharks, turtles, pelicans, and an octopus look on in disgust. If the message isn't clear enough, there's also text yelling “DON'T DUMP OIL.”

The artist behind the production, Cameron Moberg (aka Camer1), writes of his personal experience with dumpers:

I remember being in high school in the 90’s when I first heard the stories of people illegally dumping oil in the Bayview. Visiting my friends near 3rd and Palou, I would listen to their dad talk about companies and individuals alike coming in to the neighborhood and setting oil cans on corners or even dumping it down drains. I thought by now, in 2016, things would have changed. But making recent visits to the Bayview proves it is still a problem....

I interviewed countless Bayview residents. Most of which did not know each other but all had similar stories. I heard stories from older gentlemen, who didn’t know each other but had similar stories. They had gone fishing in the bay with their fathers at a young age and would see trucks come in and dump “stuff” into the bay. I heard stories that dumping was done by owners of small businesses to large companies.

The San Francisco Department of the Environment, one of the mural's sponsors, says half the hazardous waste it picks up after people drop it in the streets comes from Bayview-Hunters Point. There's just something about the place that makes oil-chucking scofflaws feel untouchable, reports the San Francisco Chronicle:

City officials and community members say it’s typically businesses from outside the area doing the dumping.

“They come from everywhere,” said lifelong Bayview resident Bernard Robinson, 68, just as a man walked by and threw a bag of garbage onto the sidewalk. “See? They don’t care. They don’t keep the community clean.”

City officials estimate that between 2012 and 2014, clean-up crews collected more than 6,000 gallons of abandoned motor oil from across San Francisco.... Personnel in the Public Works Department have gone as far as conducting late-night stakeouts to find out who’s behind the dumping, Raphael said.

If whoever is dumping the oil is reading, please take the mural's advice and “Call 311” instead. Or just drive the six minutes it takes to get from there to an auto garage, where you can recycle it safely for free.

About the Author

  • John Metcalfe
    John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.