Horvath, Supes Want Stormwater System That Doesn’t Dump Trash in Santa Monica Bay


Today, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved Supervisor Lindsey P. Horvath’s motion to protect Santa Monica Bay and LA County beaches from trash and pollution. The motion responds to the realities of the climate crisis where within the month of August, Los Angeles experienced both a tropical storm and prolonged days of extreme heat. The convergence of these two events means trash accumulating on our streets is being pushed out to sea leading to unhealthy water quality at the very moment our beaches are needed most as a reprieve from the heat.  

“The Santa Monica Bay and our beaches are fragile ecosystems worth protecting and preserving. We must ensure that our beaches are cleaner and better protected from trash and pollution of all types,” said Supervisor Lindsey P. Horvath. “LA County’s spectacular and unique coastline also supports thousands of jobs and billions of dollars to our local economy every year. We can all aid in the effort to improve ocean water quality by limiting single-use plastics and keeping trash off of our streets before stormwater pushes debris out to sea.” 

“Beaches across our County, like the popular Dockweiler Beach, serve as a critical open space resource to millions of Angelenos. This comprehensive motion will allow us to improve and accelerate our efforts to reduce waste on our County beaches and protect our environmental resources in a way that is innovative, equitable, and collaborative” said Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell

Tropical Storm Hilary’s landfall resulted in a significant influx of trash accumulation on and in our beaches and ocean. While our flood control system is effective at moving stormwater runoff, the contents of this stormwater flow directly to the Pacific Ocean, with trash impacting marine life for weeks before eventually washing back on shore. The trash also results in rising bacterial levels, making our beaches unsafe for recreation, harming our local economy and limiting a much-needed recreation for millions of families. 

“It’s a fact that storm water drains onto our beaches, and it’s our responsibility as individuals to make sure that runoff is free of trash and other pollutants to keep our beaches and the bay as clean as possible,” said Gary Jones, Director of the Department of Beaches and Harbors.  “We all need to take personal responsibility for properly disposing of our trash.” 

The motion instructs the Departments of Public Works and Beaches and Harbors, to report back to the Board on trash mitigation strategies and prevention. Based on the tactics we are using today and what gaps exist, the motions asks for recommendations on what more can be done to keep trash from entering and flowing through LA County waterways and limiting harmful bacteria and pollution from affecting our communities and the biodiversity we cherish. The motion also directs Public Works to bring back recommendations on additional strategies to regulate single use waste including “extended producer responsibility” policies that would charge industry with a larger role in clean up. 

“To protect LA’s coastline, rivers, lakes, and streams, Los Angeles County has adopted bans on single-use plastics, installed over 10,000 filters on catch basins, and operates end-of-pipe solutions like trash booms and the Ballona Creek Trash Interceptor on creeks and river channels,” said Mark Pestrella, Los Angeles County Public Works Director. “LA County is also heavily invested in its CleanLA.com education campaign to inform the public that protecting communities from pollution is a respon­sibility we all share—from putting trash and recycling in their place to source reduction by manufacturers.” 

The most common trash that accumulates on our beaches are cigarette butts, food wrappers, plastic bottle caps, and face masks. The best thing we can all do to protect the ocean is to properly dispose of unwanted items and to reduce reliance on single-use plastics. This year, LA County implemented a ban on single-use plastics in support of environmental protection. 

Here are tips for how you can be part of the pollution solution. 

  • Reduce: Cut back on waste production by shopping smart, buying only what you need, composting food scraps, and donating unused food to food banks or shelters. Manufacturers can help achieve source reduction through cost-effective changes in production, operation, and use of raw materials. 
  • Reuse: Repurpose items like old clothing, cloth grocery bags, and containers to prevent waste. 
  • Recycle: Each year, six billion recyclable bottles and cans end up in landfills. That’s like throwing away $100 million dollars each year. Visit calrecycle.ca.gov/Recycle/ to find recycling centers for a wide variety of products. 
  • Rethink: Visit WaterforLA.com for tips on how to protect local water bodies from urban runoff pollution and CleanLA.com for resources on the proper disposal of electronic waste, household hazardous waste, used motor oil and more. 

“We applaud Supervisor Horvath for her leadership to improve upon strategies and protocols for protecting the Santa Monica Bay, beaches, and neighborhoods from the impacts of trash and other pollution,” said Dr. Katherine Pease, Director of Science and Policy at Heal the Bay, a nonprofit organization dedicated to making the coastal waters and watersheds in Greater Los Angeles safe, healthy, and clean. “Proactive and collaborative actions are necessary in the face of worsening climate change impacts and this motion will help further the protection of our environment and communities.” 

For other ways to get involved in keeping our beaches and oceans healthy, check out these resources: 

To read the complete motion, click here. 

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