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Thursday, April 30, 2009

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.

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