The Great L.A. River Cleanup: An Interview with Sofia Mohaghegh

In May 2010 Sofia Mohaghegh, an Environmental Engineering Associate II with the City of Los Angeles’ Watershed Protection Division volunteered with other City Sanitation employees during La Gran Limpieza (or the Great Clean-Up) an annual spring Los Angeles River clean-up event organized by Friends of the Los Angeles River. Sofia recently answered a few questions about the event and the day’s enviro-happenings.

City of Los Angeles: Was this your first clean-up event or do you regularly volunteer at these types of events?

Sofia Mohaghegh: I have been participating in clean-up events since I was in college, and I carried the habit with me from then on. It’s just a great way to invest yourself in the community. I’ve attended Coastal Cleanup Day at a different site every year since 2005, and also a few other events that occur sporadically at different times throughout the year.

City of Los Angeles: What is your motivation for participating in this type of event?

Sofia Mohaghegh: I want to do my part to help clean up our waterbodies, especially since it is related to my day job. I want to see how well we’re doing and if our projects are working. I also live in LA near the LA River and bike there sometimes, so I want to be proud of my river and be able to enjoy it for what it should be – a river and not a dump site!

City of Los Angeles: Was there anything that struck you about La Gran Limpieza?

Sofia Mohaghegh: This was the first time I attended La Gran Limpieza, and I was really impressed by the work ethic of the people that attended. Everyone got right to work and really did a good job cleaning our section of the river. All that hard work and no pay – you’ve got to admire those people that are dedicated to improving their community!

City of Los Angeles: Approximately, how many people attended? What types of trash did you pick up?

Sofia Mohaghegh: There were probably around 50 people (best guess by looking around, not an official count) at the Los Feliz Blvd site. The number one item collected at the event was plastic bags. We’ve got to do something about those plastic bags. There were also some remnants of abandoned homeless encampments that needed to be cleaned up.

City of Los Angeles: Are there any other events that you’re planning on volunteering for?

Sofia Mohaghegh: I am planning to attend a beach cleanup at Dockweiler with the Sierra Club and Heal the Bay in July. And of course, I will be doing Coastal Cleanup Day in September!

City of Los Angeles: What would you say to encourage people who are considering volunteering
at an event like this?

Sofia Mohaghegh: Don’t consider it – Do it! It’s hard work, but a lot of fun, and you’ll meet other people who are friendly and as caring about the environment as you are!

Sofia Mohagheh is an Environmental Engineering Associate who has been with the City of Los Angeles for five years. She works on projects related to reducing pollutants in LA’s regional waterways. When she’s not working to improve the quality of water in LA’s rivers and lakes, she leads hikes for the Sierra Club and gives art tours for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

The LA River was recently designated as navigable, read more about how this will impact the river.

*Photo courtesy of Tenky on Flickr.com

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