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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Team Effort Ads Encourage a Call to Action

A Message from Shahram Kharaghani, City of Los Angeles Stormwater Program Manager

We’re hitting the streets! A spring time Team Effort advertising campaign will share the Stormwater Program’s vision of a socially-responsible Los Angeles. Our approach aims to inspire residents to become part of the solution and play a role in keeping their neighborhoods clean.

The Team Effort ads, which began running at the beginning of April, were created with a message of collaboration: asking city departments, non-profit organizations, businesses and residents to come together and make Los Angeles a more enjoyable and safer place to call home. The headline of the ad, “Clean Water: It’s a Team Effort,” expresses this rapport, and follows up with a call to action for pollution prevention.

Our program’s goal for the campaign is to be proactive in empowering communities and residents to improve their local environment. From downtown to surrounding neighborhoods to the beach, all areas are affected by daily behaviors of illegally disposing trash, chemicals and other toxins. These harmful pollutants threaten the safety and well-being of residents, tourists and wildlife.

Everyday trash is an important focus of the campaign, and we address this with a message from children asking all L.A. residents: “Please Don’t Litter, Thank You!.” The pictorial account shows that children are a major motivation of the team effort, because they are the most affected by current behaviors of littering and illegal dumping. Two additional campaign photos tell the story of City employees who have separate tasks but unified goals, as they monitor water quality both inland and on the coast to ensure public health and thriving marine habitats.

Taraneh Nik-Khah, a featured City employee, hops on a pontoon boat three times a week to sample the waters of Machado Lake at Ken Malloy Harbor Regional Park. The Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board has identified the lake as a contaminated water body for such toxins as pesticides, DDT, trash and even odors. Taraneh takes these samples to a lab to monitor harmful materials and assess how they affect the surrounding habitat. In the near future, Taraneh and her sampling team will also be monitoring the benefits of the City’s Proposition O restoration project aimed at cleaning up Machado Lake and its adjacent park.

Northwest of Machado Lake, David Bond cruises the coast in the bright yellow Environmental Monitoring truck to sample ocean water at the Santa Monica Pier. Results of these samples, taken at 20 different coastal locations, are reported daily to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health who immediately uses the data to determine if it meets water quality standards. The data are also reported to the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board on a monthly basis and are used by the environmental group Heal the Bay to produce their annual beach report card.

There is no one single entity, organization or person who is going to be the solution to stormwater pollution. These increasingly difficult economic times remind us how important it is to work as a cohesive team for the common vision of clean rivers and beaches. Ultimately, our clean water team begins with you. I hope you will visit our website to learn more about the easy steps you can take to improve your community and also find out more about the stormwater projects we have been working on. Get involved in local clean-ups, share your voice on this blog and send us your stories at LAstormwater.org/teameffort

Program Praised From Sun Valley to Dockweiler Beach

The Los Angeles Stormwater Program recently received kudos for its public education and flood prevention programs. The first award, for public education, was received on January 10 from the Los Angeles Basin Section (LABS) of the California Water Environment Association (CWEA). In addition to the LABS award, the Department of Public Works Bureau of Sanitation was recently recognized by the Los Angeles Council of Engineers & Scientists for Sun Valley Park.

“These awards exemplify the tremendous successes and accomplishments of a significant program that defines the City’s commitment to stewardship of the environment,” says Cynthia M. Ruiz, president of the Board of Public Works. “The Stormwater Program is to be commended for delivering tangible results on major public health and education programs that uphold and advance our quality of life.”

The LABS Public Education award was in recognition of “Kids in Action: Students Tackle Stormwater Pollution”—an expansive public education and hands-on volunteer clean-up program involving Los Angeles area students and youth in a major public-private partnership to combat the adverse impacts of stormwater runoff, pollution, and litter.

On June 6, 2008, the City partnered with the Malibu Foundation for Environmental Education and the California Coastal Commission to coordinate the 15th Annual Kids Ocean Day clean-up at Dockweiler State Beach. The CWEA award was a result of this team effort. “The impact of the message that clean oceans and beaches start with clean neighborhoods has tremendously increased due to the partnership between the City and non-profit organizations,” says environmental educator Michael Klubock of the Malibu Foundation. “This year was a huge success.”

More than 200 volunteers and 3,700 students from 20 Los Angeles-area schools participated in the beach clean up event and organized a massive aerial art display that depicted two children holding up the earth with the words “Kids in Action” surrounding the globe. More than 3,600 pounds of trash were collected. High school students who participated served as mentors for the elementary students, explaining the importance and impact of properly disposing of trash.

Besides the LABS award, on February 19, 2009, the Department of Public Works Bureau of Sanitation was awarded the Project Achievement Award for the Sun Valley Park Multipurpose Project by the Los Angeles Council of Engineers & Scientists. The award was given because of the project’s design, which addresses both flood control and water quality improvement.

The project addresses Sun Valley’s flood-prone past by including settling treatment units, a filtration treatment unit, infiltration basins, and associated conveyance system of pumps, valves and piping to treat flow from a 45-acre tributary drainage area allowing for percolation to groundwater aquifers.

It Takes a Village: Local Activists Organize to Clean-up LA

A number of clean-ups around Los Angeles are scheduled this spring, and in order for each to be successful the community’s participation is crucial. A “Team Effort” for clean water is exemplified in the interviews below, because their clean-up efforts are what help to make the vision of pollution-free rivers, lakes and oceans a reality.

Ida Tallala, Founder of the Echo Park Trash Abatement Project (TAP), which has received City of Los Angeles Stormwater program support for her organization, talks about her community activism. The TAP project began in mid-2006 and Ida consults with a number of people and organizations in the community to get her projects accomplished. Ida recently spoke with the Stormwater Program about the work she is doing.

Stormwater Program (SP): What inspired you to get involved in Echo Park?
Ida Tallala: It is difficult for me not to get involved. I love my Echo Park community and have a deep respect for the environment. The two interests are served on the issue of keeping trash out of storm drains. It became clearer to me over time that trash was accumulating throughout Echo Park. In addition, the traditional wire mesh trash cans filled up rapidly and allowed trash to escape its confines. Escaping trash got into the storm drains. For the general public this was not an issue as the assumption was that storm drains were for conveying trash and runoff, many did not know that the storm drains discharged into Echo Park Lake. Our lake is one of the most polluted bodies of water in urban Los Angeles, and I believe this has caused the demise of the Lake’s famed Lotus flowers.

SP: What are some anti-litter projects that you’re currently working on?
Ida Tallala: My research into trash containers led me to stumble upon an innovative solar operated compactor-trash can known by all as BigBelly®. It is durable and due to compaction, holds four times as much trash as a regular trash can!
In a competitive grant project from the Office of Community Beautification, Echo Park TAP was awarded a full grant towards the purchase of two Solar BigBelly® Compactor Trash Cans with attached recycling units for cans and glass.
We plan to announce trash removal at specific times so that the public can satisfy their curiosity as well as become partners in the effort against trash.

SP: To what do you attribute the success of TAP?
Ida Tallala: It has been a journey that has had the assistance of many. I am indebted to all at the City of LA Stormwater Program for their assistance in the process. Also I must give kudos to Heal the Bay for its outstanding training programs, educational materials and the opportunity they provided me to assist communities in understanding the deadly march of inland trash through its inland California Coastal Clean Up Day events.

In 2008, Echo Park TAP collaborated with Central City Action Committee and several others. More than 180 volunteers collected more than 1,000 pounds of trash and 5,017 cigarette butts. On September 20, 2008, we were assisted by Council President Eric Garcetti and Commissioner Cynthia Ruiz, President, Board of Public Works. As I noted, the City’s Stormwater program has provided support at a number of levels as has the Bureau of Sanitation. For small fledgling groups such as Echo Park TAP, realizing goals requires accessing information and expertise. A series of clean ups and lectures is planned and a welcome celebration for Solar BigBelly®. The community is encouraged to participate.

Commissioner Cynthia M. Ruiz, President of the City of Los Angeles Board of Public Works, and chairperson of the Keep Los Angeles Beautiful (KLAB) Advisory Board, explains why she feels it is important for community members to join local clean-ups.

SP: Why should people get involved in clean-ups?
Commissioner Ruiz: Neighborhood clean-up events bring a sense of pride and ownership to one’s community, which in turn raises awareness and encourages people to take ownership in their neighborhoods. However, this team-building is only one component of these great events; another is the effect such efforts have on the local environment. Our waterways get clogged full of litter every day, so getting out and cleaning them up has a direct impact on the health of Los Angeles and the ocean where street litter ends up after flowing through the City’s stormdrain system. I really cannot imagine a better way to build community and restore our environment than by joining a local clean-up in your area.

SP: What’s the Great American Cleanup?
Commissioner Ruiz: The Great American Cleanup is organized by Keep America Beautiful and is the nation’s largest community improvement program, which takes place annually from March 1 through May 31, involving an estimated three million volunteers and attendees across the country. We hope to have a substantial turnout in Los Angeles. Activities this year will include beautifying parks and recreation areas, cleaning seashores and waterways, picking up litter, planting trees and flowers, and conducting educational programs and litter-free events.

Andrea Ambrose and John Lobato, Co-Founders of Los Angeles Neighborhood Clean Up Project (LANCUP), talk about their organization. LANCUP was started in November, 2008 and organizes local residents in frequent clean-up events around the city.

SP: How did you first get involved in your local community and what was your motivation for doing so?

Andrea Ambrose and John Labato: The two of us were driving down Virgil Avenue on the border of Silver Lake and East Hollywood and we started talking about how much trash was on the streets in that area. A couple of weeks later, we drove down the same street and saw that there was even more trash that had accumulated, so we decided to just go to Home Depot, buy some brooms, and start cleaning up the streets ourselves. People on Virgil probably thought we were crazy those first few times that we went out to clean, but over time we got people to come out and help and after a number of events we have gathered a great group of community volunteers who help at clean-ups. Since that time, we have worked with the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council and the Greater Echo Park and Elysian Park Neighborhood Council in organizing events. Everybody has been really enthusiastic about helping out and volunteering.

SP: What are your plans for the future? What projects do you have planned?

Andrea Ambrose and John Labato: We are planning on expanding our geographic reach to other areas of Los Angeles. We are always looking for people who live in different neighborhoods to act as Neighborhood Coordinators, to help us plan events. We have also started a campaign to get more trash cans installed in our area. When we were cleaning up on Virgil, we walked five blocks before running into a trash can. We figure that part of the reason there is so much trash is due to the fact that there are not enough trash cans. As parts of Los Angeles become more walkable, the City needs to compensate and install more trash cans. Our local businesses and city council members seem pretty enthusiastic about the idea—the biggest (and most obvious) problem is money. Installing a new trash can costs about $10,000. We are considering throwing a fundraiser with the help of local businesses.
Keeping our communities clean is a team effort! We encourage readers to find a local clean-up and volunteer. Bring friends and family and help make Los Angeles a healthy, clean place to live.
To see a full listing of upcoming clean-up events, please visit our online calendar. We update the clean-up calendar with events that are taking place all over the City. If you would like to submit your clean-up for inclusion on the calendar, please contact us at LAstormwater@LAcity.org

LANCUP: http://lacleanup.blogspot.com


KLAB: http://www.lacity.org/bpw/OCB/KLAB


TAP: idatalalla@aol.com

A Fresh Approach to a Stinky Problem

Have you ever been walking your dog and suddenly realized that you’d forgotten to bring a bag to pick up after your four-legged friend? Well, if you are going to be in any of a number of parks this spring, you may be in luck!

The City of Los Angeles Stormwater Program will be installing dispensers that hold plastic bags in local parks that patrons can use to pick up after their pets before tossing the bag in the trash. The Take a Bag, Leave a Bag pilot program, which may be expanded, will allow residents to leave plastic bags in the dispenser for others to use. It will be a fantastic way to reuse any extra plastic bags you have lying around your home.

By having residents contribute plastic bags to the dispensers, the community is becoming directly involved, helping to reduce the cost of bags and labor for the program, while keeping L.A. clean and healthy.

“Previously dog bag dispensers were stocked by the City, but were extremely expensive to maintain and sometimes cost upwards of $16,000 to purchase bags annually for one dispenser,” says Bill Lopez of the City of Los Angeles Dept. of Parks and Recreation. “Our hope is that this new program will cut down these costs in order to help make the dispensers a sustainable and long lasting part of the park landscape.”

The Take a Bag, Leave a Bag pilot program is made possible through “community sponsorships” where several community groups have teamed up with the Stormwater Program to oversee the dispensers. The local sponsors include Multnomah Elementary School, Hillside Village Property Owners, Friends of the Dog Park, and the Echo Park Trash Abatement Project. Sponsors will be in charge of ensuring that the dispensers stay stocked with bags and are well maintained, reporting to the City on their impact and level of effectiveness.

Meet Some of Our Sponsors:

Name: Luanna Allard, President

Organization: Hillside Village Property Owners
Park Location: Ascot Hills Park
“People were taking their dogs for walks in Ascot Hills Park and not picking up after them. We asked that a stand to hold plastic bags and trash cans be installed so everyone would clean up after their dogs. Now we have the ‘Take a Bag, Leave a Bag’ program to help keep our park clean. The timing could not have been better.”

Name: John Mainsterra, Magnet School Coordinator

Organization: Multnomah Elementary School
Park Location: Ascot Hills Park
“Our students are frequent visitors at the park. They will be educated in the importance of maintaining a clean and ‘green’ park environment for all to use. They will learn to become active members of their community in order to secure and maintain "green" space in their neighborhood.”

The effectiveness of the pilot program will be evaluated over the next several months. If there are signs that these dispensers are being stocked with bags and there is a decrease in unattended pet waste, the Stormwater Program may offer this program to other parks in the City.

The following four parks in the City of Los Angeles will be participating: Ascot Hills Park, Elysian Park, Sepulveda Basin Off-Leash Dog Park and Westminister Dog Park. Click here to see a map view of the park locations.

If you are interested in sponsoring a dispenser please contact us at (800) 974-9794 or LAstormwater@lacity.org.

Unattended pet waste may be washed into the storm drain by rain or irrigation run off. This toxic mix of dog waste and water then flows untreated into our local lakes, rivers and the ocean. The bacteria found in the fecal matter negatively affect our aquatic life, those who swim at our beaches, the tourism industry and our economy. The Take a Bag, Leave a Bag program aims to involve local community members in helping to prevent this “toxic soup” from making its way into our waterways in order to keep our local environment safe and clean for all to enjoy.

Public Weighs In on Heavy Metals and Bacteria Pollution

On March 3, 2009 the City of Los Angeles Stormwater Program held the second of three stakeholder workshops to discuss the Ballona Creek Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) Implementation Plans or—in laymen’s terms—plans that will identify stormwater projects for improving the water quality of Ballona Creek and the Estuary. The City of Los Angeles Watershed Protection Division (WPD) has embraced a multi-benefit approach for managing urban runoff, with a strong focus on using natural solutions and developing a green infrastructure.

The TMDL Implementation Plans will address pollutants such as bacteria, metals, toxic pollutants and other water quality impairments. Meeting these requirements will greatly reduce water pollution in the area, making it cleaner and more hospitable to acquatic life and local residents. Cleaning up the Ballona Creek watershed will also help with improving water quality at our beaches.

"The beach at Playa del Rey near Ballona Creek is often very polluted, even during dry weather,” says Mark Gold, Executive Director of Heal the Bay.“The Ballona Creek fecal bacteria TMDL is critical to ensure that a day at the beach won’t make you sick.” More than 70 stakeholders from environmental organizations, community groups and local neighborhoods attended the second workshop. City staff, consultants and stakeholders conducted the presentation, and several breakout sessions were held to discuss specific plans for managing urban runoff in the Ballona Creek watershed.

The development of the Ballona Creek TMDL Implementation Plans is directed by Reza Iranpour, Assistant Division Manager of the Watershed Protection Division. Stormwater projects will be identified in two ways. The first approach uses a recently developed computer model that identifies opportunities for large-scale stormwater projects in the areas where pollution is the greatest. The second approach is to identify local opportunity sites, recommended by stakeholders. Both approaches will rely on green and sustainable options for urban runoff management.The WPD’s TMDL team has been working vigorously to develop strong relationships with local stakeholders in the Ballona Creek watershed.

“The connections we are making in the community have enabled us to identify key areas for projects that will be the most efficient and effective for cleaning up the Ballona Creek watershed,” says Iranpour. “These stakeholders are the people who live, work, walk, bike and breathe in the area every day. They know it inside and out. Without their input, the TMDL Implementation Plans will not bring about the water quality improvement and other benefits that are needed.”

Thus far Iranpour’s team has held more than 30 meetings with Ballona Creek stakeholders, identifying more than 15 opportunity sites for stormwater projects. These sites are located in local neighborhoods, industrial areas, and commercial zones throughout the watershed. By using green development such as bioswales and cisterns, urban runoff can be captured and cleaned in natural ways.” It is great to see City staff out here facilitating community based-projects in the Ballona Creek watershed,” says Paul Herzog, Co-Chair of the Ballona Creek Watershed Task Force. “It’s very important to remember that 60% of this watershed’s development is residential, so my hope is that the City will also focus on small scale programs within the watershed, where the City will get more bang for their buck.”
While improving the water quality of Ballona Creek and Estuary is the primary driver, the TMDL Implementation Plans will follow a multi-benefit approach to maximize green infrastructure development and the use of stormwater for irrigation and infiltration. This will require consensus and collaboration among all stakeholders in the watershed. The next stakeholder workshop is slated for the end of the summer.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Donations poured in and grant makers increased their contribution to make it all possible.

The California Coastal Commission, LA Best, the City of Los Angeles, LA City Council Members gave buses and schools stepped up during the call to help for KIDS OCEAN DAY.

KIDS OCEAN DAY has a lot of partners out in the community that support the effort to get students to the beach. The event, which is hosted by the Malibu Foundation and LA Stormwater Program, now has approximately 4,500 students scheduled to make it to Dockweiler on June 4, 2009 for the massive beach cleanup and aerial art display.

Thank you to everyone for the amazing Team Effort! We will see you at Dockweiler Beach on Thursday, June 4th. To volunteer at this event, please visit email michael@klubock.com.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Student Buses Still Needed for 2009 Kids Ocean Day

2009 Kids Ocean Day: Malibu Foundation Calls for Student Buses

Malibu Foundations's 2009 Kids Ocean Day Beach Cleanup Event lost bus funding from the Santa Monica Conservancy, when their order of 72 buses was canceled last Thursday. The buses play an integral part to the event, as approximately 5,000 elementary students from LA City and County schools travel to Dockweiler Beach to participate. The LA Stormwater Program also coordinates this event alongside the Malibu Foundation and called the City to action to keep this event alive.

Last week, Malibu Foundation Director Michael Klubock called upon City Council offices, LAUSD, First Student and Atlantic Express bus companies for donations and reduced fares.

On Thursday the Keep Los Angeles Beautiful (KLAB) committee agreed to donate $7,000 to fund 20 buses. That equals to about 1,200 kids! A great start to the team effort, but additional help is needed to continue the legacy of this great event

For more information on the Malibu Foundation for Environmental Education and the 2009 Kids Ocean Day, please visit http://www.malibufoundation.org/

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

LASWP Conducts Middle School Presentations at Valley Alternative

Los Angeles Stormwater Program Conducts Middle School Presentations at Valley Alternative

As part of the LA Stormwater Program’s school outreach component to educate students about stormwater pollution issues and encourage young people to be environmentally conscious, 6 middle school presentations were conducted at Valley Alternative Magnet School in Van Nuys on April 1, 2009.

A total of 202 students grade 6-8 were educated on the connection between the storm drain system and the ocean, the environmental impacts of stormwater pollution and simple steps, such as recycling and not littering, that every student can take to improve water quality in their community.

At the end of each presentation, 3 questions about stormwater pollution were posed to students. When the students answered the question correctly, he/she was rewarded with a t-shirt highlighting the message “Clean water starts with me”.
The Los Angeles Stormwater Program regularly conducts presentations at City of LA schools. To request a presentation at your school, please email LAstormwater@lacity.org.