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Annual coastal cleanup event expands inland

September 16, 2007|Rong-Gong Lin II | Times Staff Writer

An army of volunteers hunting for litter across Los Angeles County collected nearly 80,000 pounds of trash Saturday, officials said.

The effort was part of California Coastal Cleanup Day, held annually since 1985. But the cleanup doesn't happen just at the beach anymore: Officials expanded efforts inland.

Most of the trash that piles up on the shoreline comes from inland storm drains, which during the rainy season carry the litter to creeks, rivers and ultimately the Pacific Ocean, organizers said.

"We can't separate the inland from the beach. It's all one system," said Eveline Bravo, the Coastal Cleanup Day manager for Heal the Bay, a nonprofit environmental group based in Santa Monica that coordinated about 70 cleanup events Saturday in Los Angeles County.

"It's like getting to the root of the problem," Bravo said.

In the San Fernando Valley community of Panorama City -- about 14 miles from the coast -- volunteers collected 27,000 pounds of litter, the most for any single site in the county.

They combed sidewalks and street gutters, scooping up empty tissue boxes, Popsicle sticks, empty single-serving cereal boxes, flattened fruit drink wrappers, torn candy wrappers and unused ketchup packets.

"It reaffirmed our notion that we need to do more inland," said Matthew King, a spokesman for Heal the Bay. More than 80% of the litter collected, by weight, was from inland sites.

About five miles away, volunteers at the Sepulveda Dam Recreation Area found some large items as they canvassed the Los Angeles River.

Andrew Murdock, a music producer from Silver Lake, helped carry out a disintegrating mattress, with chunks of yellow padding sticking out.

"I think it's important to feel one person can make a difference," Murdock said.

Murdock and others also found a car air filter, an overstuffed sofa and a burned shopping cart. They also picked up smaller pieces of litter, and separated them into bags for trash and for recyclables.

"It was bigger than last year's," said Spencer Lussier, 9, who went to the Encino event with his Boy Scout troop.

That was true all over Los Angeles County. Volunteers collected about 10,000 pounds more trash than last year.

Statewide, the California Coastal Commission estimated that nearly 50,000 volunteers collected at least 800,000 pounds of trash -- roughly equal to the weight of 80 elephants.

Some of the more unusual items found included a blown-open empty safe in Monterey County and a litter of puppies in the San Joaquin Valley. (The puppies were made available for adoption.)

In L.A. County, volunteers cleaned 85 miles of beaches. Divers found a bridal gown and a skateboard submerged just north of the Santa Monica Pier. A rosary and crystal methamphetamine were found separately in Manhattan Beach.

Off Palos Verdes Estates, volunteers found a rusted bike and a crushed guitar at Malaga Cove. In Wilmington, 2,083 half-filled or empty cans of spray paint and a bottle of dead beetles were uncovered at Ken Malloy Harbor Regional Park. In Elysian Park, volunteers collected more than 60 golf balls at an L.A. River site.

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ron.lin@latimes.com

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