December 11, 2009

Ban on trash in L.A. River

This story below is good news. There was no mention in the story of similar rules applying to the San Gabriel River (where most of Lakewood's storm drains empty to) however we assume similar rules are in force as the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board also has control over the San Gabriel River. See this San Gabriel River report for more detail. This is why we urged Lakewood some years ago to enforce a logical parking ban; so that city wide street sweeping covering all streets weekly would comply with these rules, which will become more difficult over time to comply with without thorough sweeping programs. Next wee need to see storm drains inlets modified (and the catch basins cleaned before storms) to deal with all the trash and other pollutants not collected by the sweeper. Of course the story linked above does not mention which agency is supposed to clean out these catch basins once a week and all during a rain storm so they don't overflow and cause flooding nor is there any mention of the funding mechanism for this after the initial money is spent on installation of these snazzy catch basins. Also we are not keen on delaying this until 2016 but that is the slow pace of local government. I hope federal stimulus money is spent on this and perhaps the work will start sooner that way.,0,6852403.story
Water board moves to enforce ban on trash in L.A. River
Cities along the watershed are required by 2016 to keep all trash out of their storm drains. Those that don't comply will now be in violation of the federal Clean Water Act.

By Bettina Boxall

December 11, 2009

Regional water quality officials on Thursday put some teeth into their long campaign to cleanse the Los Angeles River system of the tons of trash that turn it into a movable landfill after major storms.

Standards previously adopted by the Los Angeles [Regional] Water Quality Control Board give cities along the watershed until 2016 to keep all trash out of their storm drains.

On Thursday, the board incorporated those limits into storm water permits, putting municipalities that don't meet the requirements in violation of the federal Clean Water Act. Until now there had been no penalty for noncompliance.

"It's taken two decades to get to this point," board vice-chair Madelyn Glickfeld said after the 5-0 vote. "If we hadn't done this today, it would have been a signal" to cities "to relax, guys."

During storms, tons of trash and plastic debris wash up in municipal drains that empty into the Los Angeles River and its tributaries. The trash floating at the river's mouth in Long Beach can be so thick that it is hard to see any water. In the unusually wet winter of 2005, Long Beach hauled more than 12,000 tons of garbage out of the river.

Much of the trash winds up in the Pacific Ocean, contributing to huge floating garbage patches. Pieces of plastic can wrap around wildlife and kill birds and fish.

Trash was formally identified as a pollution problem in the river in 1996. Five years later, the regional water board adopted standards. But 22 cities sued to overturn the trash limits, saying they would be expensive and difficult to meet.

The courts found the board had not performed an adequate environmental impact analysis of the new rules, but otherwise upheld them.

After conducting an environmental review, the board readopted the trash standards in 2007.

In the meantime, some cities in the watershed, including Los Angeles, started installing screens and collection systems to keep street debris from washing into sewers. Sixteen cities in the watershed recently received $10 million in federal stimulus money to outfit their catch basins.

Local officials pointed to progress Thursday. "We have taken trash reduction seriously," said Signal Hill Councilman Larry Forester.

Another official showed the board photographs he took after Monday's storm. Parts of the river that have been coated with trash in the past were largely clean.

Local representatives argued that it wasn't necessary to write a target of zero trash discharges into the storm permits, and that doing so would set a burdensome precedent for other pollutants.

Lakewood Accountability Action Group™ LAAG | | Lakewood, CA
A California Non Profit Association | Demanding action and accountability from local government™

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