The Santa Monica City Council has approved a plan aimed at reducing pollutants entering the Pico-Kenter storm drain and extending the drain from the beach into the sea.
The drain, which dumps runoff from part of Santa Monica and West Los Angeles onto the beach at Pico Avenue, has been the focus of environmentalists' complaints, highlighted last summer when, on at least four occasions, petroleum products illegally dumped into Pico-Kenter fouled the beach surrounding the drain.
Pico-Kenter and other storm drains have also been found at times to carry high levels of bacteria derived from animal feces that has washed into the drain.
The plan calls for Santa Monica and the city and county of Los Angeles to share the costs of extending the drain 1,000 feet by the spring of 1988. The three also would fund new programs to improve street cleaning and pollution-control enforcement, promote adherence to anti-dumping laws and increase testing of drain waters.
The plan also includes an alarm system that would detect petroleum products dumped in the drain and enable city engineers to close it off before the pollutants could enter the ocean.
While unanimously approving the plan on Tuesday, the council agreed with critics of the proposal, who said that extending the drain only reduced the exposure of beachgoers to drain waters but did not reduce drain water pollution.
"This is probably the best we can hope for now, bearing in mind that this is imperfect," said Councilman David Finkel.
Director of General Services Stan Scholl told the council that the city would have to pay one-third of the $400,000 cost of extending the drain as well as an annual cost of $135,000 for the city's share of the other programs.
Santa Monica is the first to approve the plan, which must also be approved by the county and the city of Los Angeles.
Scholl also said the plan was a temporary measure designed to deal with drain pollution until a means can be found to treat drain water before it enters the sea.
Heal the Bay, an environmental organization, opposed the extension of the drain.
"An interim solution that costs so much money is perhaps not the wisest use of resources," said Dorothy Green, president of the organization, before the council meeting. "We are delighted with the rest of the plan. But we object to planning which is out of sight, out of mind."
Heal the Bay, Scholl and the council agreed that the ultimate solution was to find a way to treat drain waters.
But Scholl said a treatment plant, which he estimated would use about 1.5 acres of prime beachfront land and cost $3 million to $5 million, would take about five years to complete.
As part of his motion to approve the plan, Councilman Dennis Zane included a provision ordering city staff to begin working on research and planning for a treatment facility.