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Ballona Creek Watershed

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Future TMDLs

Ballona Creek and Ballona Creek Wetlands Trash TMDL

TMDL Effective Date: July 17, 2007
Final Compliance Date: September 2015

Similar to the Los Angeles River Trash TMDL, the City of Los Angeles is mandated by the Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB) to address Trash Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) regulatory requirements in the Ballona Creek watershed and Ballona Creek Wetlands. In September 2001, the Environmental Protection Agency adopted the Ballona Creek and Ballona Creek Wetlands Trash Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), which established limits on the amount of trash allowed into Ballona Creek. The TMDL required Southern California cities discharging into Ballona Creek to reduce their trash contribution to these water bodies by 10% each year for a period of 10 years with the goal of zero trash in the two waterways by 2015. The first milestone was a 20% trash reduction in Ballona Creek by September 30, 2006, which the City met and since has achieved every yearly milestone, solely based on its structural measures without having to take credit for its implemented institutional measures. While these new federal mandates were being challenged by others, the City of Los Angeles embraced the opportunity to clean-up Ballona Creek.

The Watershed Protection Division (WPD) of the Bureau of Sanitation is the lead office in charge of the city-wide Trash TMDL Implementation. In its undertaking of the Trash TMDL, WPD in the Spring of 2002 completed a study entitled High Trash Generation Areas and Control Measures, which identified the spatial distribution of trash in the City for both the Los Angeles River and Ballona Creek watersheds. The study examined the amount of trash accumulating in City-owned catch basins beginning in 1999 through the end of 2003. The ensuing analysis of the data resulted in the identification of three distinctive trash generation areas within the City. Those areas were categorized as low, medium, and high trash generation areas. The high trash generation area was shown to contribute approximately sixty percent of the trash within the City. It was concluded that implementing both institutional and structural control measures first in the high and medium trash generating areas would have the greatest impact in reducing trash discharged to the Ballona Creek. This means that catch basins in these areas will not be looked at as source of trash to the receiving water bodies. Accordingly, a trash reduction in Ballona Creek will be observed as more and more of the source points are eliminated.

The City’s strategy for compliance is based on using the following two-prong approach: 1) implementing institutional measures such as, public outreach, street sweeping, catch basin cleaning, enforcement, etc., with a special focus on the high trash generation areas, and 2) installing structural trash control devices in the storm drain system, targeting first the high trash generating areas of the City, followed by the medium and low trash generating areas.

The WPD has used this strategy to implement various measures such as, online structures (i.e., Fresh Creek and PJ Hannah netting systems, and CDS systems and catch basin (CB) trash capture/deflection systems (i.e., CB inserts and opening covers). Following evaluation of the existing City storm drain system and assessment of the different structural trash control devices deployed within the City over the course of the past four years, the City concluded that implementation of either CB inserts and/or CB opening screen covers at all catch basins within the City is the most feasible, practical and cost effective approach for compliance with the TMDL. City conducted pilot studies have indicated that the CB inserts (pilot report inserts) retain 98% of the trash that enters the CB over the course of a year; whereas the CB opening screen covers (pilot report covers) prevent approximately 86% of the trash from being discharged to the receiving waters.

As of September 2008, the City has installed over 7,700 catch basin inserts in the high trash generating areas and 14,900 catch basin opening screen covers in the high and medium trash generating areas of the City. In addition, 13 netting systems and three CDS units certified as full capture devices, have been strategically installed throughout the City and continue to operate effectively in preventing the trash from getting to the LA River and Ballona Creek. Thus far, the City has invested approximately $39 million to achieve compliance using online structures and catch basin capture devices.

At the inception of the program, the implementation of the trash TMDL in the City was projected to cost well over $1.5 billion in capital costs to achieve full compliance. Through the City’s leadership and use of its strategic two-pronged approach, paralleled with a commitment to invest in piloting new products and BMPs, the capital costs are now projected at approximately $85 million to achieve compliance. The last phase will be undertaken through a contract over a period of several years, funded through Proposition O, and will address the future regulatory milestones by installing catch basin opening covers. The City will achieve full compliance several years before the mandated compliance deadlines.

Other Trash TMDLs within the City:
Los Angeles River Trash TMDL
Machado Lake Trash TMDL