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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Coast is Clear(er)

We live in an age where cutting edge technology is everywhere, making our lives and its related challenges easier to solve. Often times we aren’t aware or able to understand the technology that makes our lives easier. It just happens in the background, without us knowing. We simply reap the benefits.

And so it is in our ongoing fight to combat ocean pollution. On any given summer day here in Los Angeles more than 100 million gallons of polluted urban runoff flow untreated to Santa Monica and San Pedro Bays. To put this amount into perspective, 100 million gallons is enough water to fill the Rose Bowl to the brim. This flow easily increases to one billion gallons during a normal storm event.

Unbeknownst to many Angelenos, the City of Los Angeles has been employing state-of-the-art technology all along Pacific Coast Highway to address the urban runoff issue plaguing Southland beaches. This technology comes in the form of low flow diversion (LFD) projects. Here’s the gist: during low rainfall periods (like summer months) water still flows through the storm drain system. This water ends of flowing to the ocean. However, when this water hits LFD installations bacteria and other pollutants get removed.

Since the late 1990s, 23 LFDs have been operating under the ground and under the radar to improve Santa Monica Bay’s (SMB) water quality. They are the unsung heroes of the ongoing urban runoff pollution challenge, working tirelessly during the summer months when the level of polluted flow is relatively low, to improve water quality at LA beaches. Behind the scenes, these low flow diversions quietly re-direct polluted storm water runoff from our storm drains into our sanitary sewer system, keeping the pollution from ever reaching beaches. Once in LA’s sewer system, the polluted runoff flows to the Hyperion Wastewater Treatment Plant where it is treated before being discharged into the bay. In fact, these low flow diversions have been so instrumental in improving water quality that Heal the Bay noted in their 2007 Beach Report that LFD projects resulted in long stretches of beaches in our area receiving consistently good grades. This recognition was a first in Heal the Bay’s history.

However, like everything in this tech age, there’s always room for an upgrade and the LFDs are no different. The City is taking advantage of funding available from Proposition O, the Clean Water Bond passed in 2004, to improve eight City-owned and operated low flow diversions to be able to re-route polluted storm water flow to sanitary sewers for treatment year round during dry weather. These upgrades have been in progress since October of 2009. Several of which will be completed later this summer with the remaining LFD upgrades to be complete and operational by fall 2010.

These improvements will translate into increased capacity and system reliability that means we can prevent any kind of polluted dry-weather flow, summer or winter, from flowing to the ocean making life in and around Santa Monica Bay life a little easier and our coast a little clearer.

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