Stormwater home page City of Los Angeles home page
      Department of Public Works Bureau of Sanitation

Volume I, Issue III

The Ocean Begins…in Your Neighborhood!

Summer is officially here and we all know what that means – it is time to head to the beach! What you may not have realized is that the ocean actually begins in your community, even if you don’t have beach-front property.

Even on days when it doesn’t rain, about 100 million gallons of urban runoff flows through the Los Angeles storm drain system and directly to our beaches. A lot of this comes from excess watering of lawns and landscapes, as well as home car washing. So much water in fact, that this amount would overflow the entire Rose Bowl stadium. You can imagine that street litter and fertilizers on our lawns all have the potential of flowing out to our ocean, carried along by all that water.

According to the Wastewater Collection Systems Division, the team in charge of cleaning out Los Angeles catch basins, the two most common types of trash they remove are paper and plastic. Catch basins aren’t made to collect trash, however, but are instead designed to capture water. Ultimately, the most common and toxic pollutants we find traveling to our waterways are trash, dog waste, pesticides, fertilizers and motor oil. These pollutants are a great health risk to swimmers and are harmful to aquatic life.

A fact that some people may be unaware of is that plastics do not biodegrade, they photodegrade, or rather, are broken down by sunlight into tiny particles that are not digestible to the aquatic and bird life that eats it. These plastics, which are polluting vast portions of our oceans, end up killing hundreds of thousands of birds and fish every single year. For example, one plastic bottle takes at least 450 years to break down, which is the main reason why plastics are so harmful to the environment.

But it is not just the usual suspects, such as plastic bags and bottles that are causing big problems. Another commonly littered pollutant is the cigarette butt, which takes up to 25 years to decompose. To give you an example how expansive this problem is, Americans smoked 389 billion cigarettes in 2005, according to government estimates. In one year, that amount produced approximately 150 million pounds of cigarette butt waste, the equivalent weight of 11,000 garbage trucks full of trash.

The positive side to this story is that since the ocean begins in our communities, stormwater pollution is very preventable. It’s the individual contributions of people like you that make the difference. Here are some examples of steps you can take to help curb stormwater pollution: :

  • Bring reusable bags with you when you go shopping
  • Always throw your trash in the garbage (or recycling) can
  • Always pick up after your pet
  • Make a commitment to yourself to pick up just one piece of litter every day.

Remember, the health of our ocean waters is greatly dependent upon our own actions. So let’s do our part to ensure our beaches are safe and ready for all to enjoy this summer.


OTHER ARTICLES IN THIS ISSUE: Ocean Day 2008 | Beach Report Card | Low Flow Diversions | South L.A. Wetlands

Main e-News Index

Subscribe to this e-Newsletter