Los Angeles is more than just star sightings and sunshine-it’s our home. Despite the affection most Angelenos and tourists harbor for the beach, the sandy shores remain a dumping ground for discarded soda cans, wrappers, cigarette butts, Styrofoam plates-you name it, you’ve probably spread your towel over it.
When it comes to water pollution, it’s no day at the beach. Coastal waters polluted by urban runoff can cause stomach illness, respiratory disease and eye, ear and skin infections in swimmers. Every dry (i.e. no rain) summer day, approximately 100 million gallons of urban runoff flows through the storm drain system directly to the creeks, rivers and ocean. To give you a sense of 100 million gallons, imagine filling up the entire Rose Bowl stadium with water. When it rains, the amount increases times ten!
Urban runoff is water from rain, hoses and sprinklers that flows from our streets into gutters known as catch basins, picking up all debris and litter in its path. From the catch basins, this “toxic soup” runs through a system of pipes known as the storm drain system and flows right to the beaches and ocean untreated.
Everything deposited on pavement-motor oil, fast-food wrappers, pesticides, fertilizers and dog waste-ends up in our creeks, rivers and ocean by way of the storm drain system. This contaminated water contains bacteria, viruses and toxic chemicals that not only cause human illness, but can also affect all marine animals.
Plastic, one of the most common items found in the ocean, does not biodegrade; it photodegrades, meaning it is broken down by sunlight into tiny molecules that never become digestible to the aquatic and bird life that eats it. An individual plastic bottle takes at least 450 years to break down.
These plastics, which are polluting vast portions of our oceans, end up killing hundreds of thousands of birds and fish every year. In fact, the Algalita Foundation, which monitors plastics in our oceans, says that plastic particles outnumber plankton 6 to 1. That is literally trillions of pieces of plastic floating around our oceans.
The great news is that stormwater pollution is completely preventable. It takes a few simple steps to literally transform the world we live in, so that life’s a (clean) beach everyday. Here’s what you can do to ensure a safe summer and a healthy neighborhood:
* Always throw trash in a trash can; recycle whenever possible;
* Always pick up after your dog;
* Spot apply areas of your lawn with toxic chemicals like pesticides and fertilizers instead of blanketing the entire area. Never apply before a predicted rain storm.
The goal is to prevent pollution before it ever makes its way to our rivers and oceans. While we celebrate another summer with barbeques, beach balls, fireworks and fun, remember to pitch in to prevent pollution and remind others to do the same. If you plan on hitting the beach this 4th of July weekend do yourself and your fellow man a favor and pack a litterbag next to the sunscreen.
For more information call (800)974-9794 or visit LAstormwater.org