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SANTA MONICA : A Sign of Summer: Plugged Storm Drains

June 11, 1995|ADRIAN MAHER

For many ocean swimmers, the first sign of summer is not warm water but the county's yellow bulldozers pushing and hauling sand to fill up Santa Monica Bay's beachfront storm drains.

During the winter, the concrete channels provide an outlet for billions of gallons of rainwater that wash untreated sewage, trash, debris, animal waste, motor oil and pesticides off the city's streets and into the bay.

The Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors recently began filling up the 15 primary storm drains from Marina del Rey to Zuma Beach in anticipation of the summer season.

"It's important for health and safety--water can build up in stagnant pools near the beach and kids can drown," said Beaches and Harbors spokesman Ken Johnson. "We are also able to flatten out the trenches near the beach, which allows our equipment to be more mobile in raking and sanitizing the sand."

Plugging the storm drains also results in cleaner water for the thousands of summer beach-goers.

"It's an invaluable service to the public," said Mark Gold, executive director of Heal the Bay, a local environmental group. "By filling up the storm drains, [the county] reduces the health risk and reduces the public's exposure. It also makes the beach much more attractive."

County officials open the storm drains temporarily when runoff builds up during the summer. The sand berms are removed when the rainy season begins in November.

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