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From Rain to Pollution

February 11, 2001|DEBORAH PRUSSEL

Rain hitting dirt goes into the ground and percolates down, the dirt acting as a filter. Rain on pavements and streets goes into storm drains where it finds its way to rivers or oceans. The thinking in the 1950s, according to the Sierra Club's Gordon Labedz, was that water should be funneled to the ocean as fast as possible. The problem is that urban runoff, along with sewage, is a major source of beach pollution.

"The concept behind the Santa Monica ordinance and storm water mitigation plans is to allow the rainwater to go into the ground," Labedz says.

Dan Okun, Kenan Professor of Environmental Engineering Emeritus at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, is not aware of any studies in collecting urban runoff involving individual households.

Okun, who has worked as a consultant on water projects in Los Angeles and Orange counties, said he is not sure drywells are the solution for Santa Monica. Large developers are utilizing the concept, he said, but there are questions about monitoring and maintaining these projects when it is the individual homeowner's responsibility.

"The environmental organizations' hearts are in the right place," Okun says. "The question is if this solution works, and if not, finding one that will."

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