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Tons of L.A. River trash will be captured before it hits the sea

November 1, 2011 |  3:45 pm

Los Angeles River trash

The installation of thousands of trash screens beneath nearly every storm drain that flows into the lower Los Angeles River has been completed, authorities announced Tuesday.

The project spans 16 cities and is expected to keep 840,000 pounds of debris -- the equivalent of about 450 Volkswagen Beetles -- from reaching the ocean each year, according to the Gateway Authority, a coalition of cities and public water agencies in southeastern L.A. County that undertook the project using $10 million in federal stimulus dollars.

The biggest winner from the project is Long Beach, where workers routinely have to scoop floating islands of plastic bottles, grocery bags and other debris flowing from dozens of communities upstream before it litters the city’s coastline.

By joining forces with its upstream neighbors, Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster said in a news release, “We leveraged resources and took a huge collective step forward to clean up our coastline on behalf of the entire region."

In August 2010 crews began installing the stainless steel, full-capture trash devices inside nearly 12,000 catch basins. The simple mesh contraptions sit just below the drains where water from city streets flows into the storm-water system and can catch debris as small as a cigarette butt.

Another 5,400 drains in the most-littered areas also were outfitted with street-level retractable screens as a second layer of defense.

Described as the largest debris-capturing project in the nation, the project marks the most aggressive attack yet on river trash in the Los Angeles region.

Garbage that washes off streets and highways has long been identified as a major source of pollution that can mar coastal habitat and float thousands of miles away on ocean currents.


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--Tony Barboza

Photo: Trash trapped near the mouth of the Los Angeles River. Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times