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Orange County

Waterways to Run Clear of Trash

Environment: Crew picks the debris out of Santiago Creek near Santa Ana to remove pollution hazards before the rainy season.

September 22, 2002|H.G. REZA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

What's as dry as the desert and looks like a dump? The bottom of Santiago Creek.

Strewn with debris including computers and car parts, the creek bed has grown unsightly and would pose a hazard if rains came and carried the pollution to the ocean.

On Saturday about two dozen adults and children cleaned up a section of the creek that runs by Santiago Park in Santa Ana, filling garbage bags full of junk. Their effort was part of a countywide cleanup of beaches and watersheds organized by the Orange County Public Facilities and Resources Department.

Other volunteers worked to clean up the Huntington Beach Pier, Bolsa Chica Wetlands and other waterways.

At Santiago Creek, Don March, 20, and Joseph Najar, 19, expressed amazement at the junk they recovered. "Computers, car parts, shopping carts; even a life ring. There's all kinds of stuff thrown here," March said.

March, from Florida, and Najar, from Connecticut, are Mormon missionaries in Orange County. They took the morning off to help with the cleanup before resuming their proselytizing duties in the afternoon.

"This too is part of our service to the community," said Najar.

Lorraine Seidmeyer, 66, surveyed a section on the north side of the creek that had burned recently. Scorched stalks of bamboo, tall weeds, scrub brush and even a palm tree gave the bank the look of a charcoal drawing.

"Somebody's home used to be in there. We recovered a television, shoes, clothing; a lot of stuff," she said.

The cleanup was timed to pick up the garbage before winter rains arrive. Santiago Creek feeds into the Santa Ana River, which flows to the ocean between Newport Beach and Huntington Beach. A lot of the garbage thrown into the normally dry creek bed and river ends up in the ocean, pushed there by water flows caused by rain.

Seidmeyer, a Rancho Santa Margarita resident, decided to help after seeing a notice asking for volunteers. She and her husband, Richard, are both retirees and frequent campers and backpackers. They also help maintain hiking trails in South County.

"We don't live in Santa Ana, but this is important to us. Nature is important," Seidmeyer said.

Dominga Torres, her two daughters and nephew turned around when they reached the bridge at Main Street. Transients have turned a flat area above the creek into a campsite. Pots, pans and other utensils were stacked neatly on a ledge, above mattresses and even a small couch.

Another group of volunteers had filled several bags with trash picked up from around the camp. The residents were not around.

"We didn't dare go in there," said Sandra Torres, 17, a student at Saddleback High School in Santa Ana. "But it's kind of fun walking through the creek."

When the four-hour cleanup ended at noon, Lawrence Barrera, 20, was amazed at the number of computer parts in the trash. "I guess technology doesn't stay on the cutting edge too long before becoming tomorrow's trash," he said.

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