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Broken Glass Found in Beach-Building Sand

Environment: Crews are cleaning up shards and jagged pieces of concrete in material used to replenish shoreline.

October 06, 2002|NICHOLAS RICCARDI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Los Angeles County sand replenishment project dumped material that included jagged concrete, glass and pipe fragments onto Will Rogers State Beach, refuse that lies just beneath the sand even after county workers spent last week trying to clean it up.

County officials said Saturday that ongoing beach erosion requires them to import sand from other areas to maintain the shoreline and that it is not unusual for hauls to include "foreign material." The 4,000 cubic yards they deposited on a swath of beach just north of Gladstone's restaurant, for example, is from a construction site in Playa del Rey.

But what Mindy Marin and other Pacific Palisades residents uncovered during a seaside jog prompted complaints to local officials. The county promised to clean up the debris, and officials with the Department of Beach and Harbors said they will review their beach renourishment policies.

On Saturday, Marin, 42, scooped out a chunk of brick and a 6-inch-long glass shard in two shovels of sand. "Look!" she cried. "That's what our beach is made of."

Her neighbor, John Neidlinger, discovered the debris last weekend, when he and his 15-year-old son went for a run on the beach. Neidlinger's son began to turn cartwheels, but had to stop for fear of shredding his hands on stray chunks of concrete and sheet metal.

"To grow up on this beach all my life and see this happen, I was just hysterical," Neidlinger said.

He dashed over to Marin's home and rallied a group of neighbors who called City Councilwoman Cindy Miscikowski last Sunday night. Miscikowski called the office of Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, whose district includes the beach, the next morning. That day, the dumping stopped.

"There was stuff in there that was just not appropriate," Miscikowski said. "They have to be there posting [signs about] it and making sure it is as clean as when they started."

Kerry Gottleib, chief deputy director of Beaches and Harbors, said in an interview Saturday that the project ended Monday and the complaints did not prompt a work stoppage. Workers have shifted to mixing the new material into sand and sifting the debris.

Gottleib said that the sand from the construction project was initially tested for compatibility and toxicity and found to be appropriate. The Environmental Protection Agency and California Coastal Commission then signed off on the project. She portrayed the situation as common.

"Whenever you do a sand renourishment project ... there's foreign debris that's in the sand," she said, recalling how in an earlier project, tires were mixed into sand on a Marina del Rey beach. "We're out there cleaning it now," she said of the Will Rogers project.

Yaroslavsky has asked Beaches and Harbors for an explanation and additional tests to ensure the new material is not toxic, said Yaroslavsky spokesman Joel Bellman.

Gottleib acknowledged that the county should have warned the public about potentially dangerous materials in the sand. "We really need to figure out a way the public can be protected while we're in the middle of a renourishment job," she said.

On Saturday, the giant machines used for cleaning sand were idle in the beach's parking lot as crews of workers picked through the sand, digging out cracked bricks and shards of concrete and glass. The machines had apparently pressed unknown amounts of debris deeper into the sand. The new material is far darker than the whiter sands farther north.

Wherever Marin and Neidlinger dug, they found leftover construction materials. They argued that the material dumped onto the beach was primarily dirt, not sand, and said the entire strand needed to be replaced.

"We want our beach back," Marin said.

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