Storm an ‘extreme test’ L.A. waste capture device guarding Pacific

An atmospheric river storm hitting California this week offers a test for an experimental waste-capturing system aimed at keeping plastic bottles, diapers and other trash from flowing into the Pacific Ocean. He has also occupied a sofa.

The solar-powered system, designed to operate largely autonomously, was introduced in October at the mouth of Ballona Creek near Playa del Rey.

The Ballona Creek Trash Interceptor 007, one of several such machines built by the Dutch non-profit organization The Ocean Cleanup, is the first such device to be installed in the United States. 10 others have been deployed globally – eight are operational, and two are down for maintenance – and another 10 are scheduled to be deployed this year.

A November 2019 motion before the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors described the partnership with Ocean Cleanup, a Dutch nonprofit, as a pilot project spanning two storm seasons between October and April.

The Ocean Cleanup is not being reimbursed, but the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works is staffing trash interception crews through the Los Angeles County Flood Fund in support of contractor Ocean Blue, at taxpayer expense. .

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During the pilot, Interceptor is exempt from California’s Environmental Quality Act, a law that requires environmental impact assessments for development or land use decisions.

After April 2024, the Los Angeles County Flood Control District will have the authority to control the interceptor at no charge, and “further environmental review may be required,” the motion states.

Streets in Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, parts of Los Angeles, Culver City and unincorporated Los Angeles County “all join a storm drain network that drains water from the roadway into the storm drain system and into Ballona Creek.” leads out through,” Kerjon Lee, spokesman for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works, told the Times.

Nine Mile Creek’s watershed spans an area with about 1.5 million residents, Lee said. The interceptor collects floating debris a few hundred yards before it is released from the creek, and crews can then send the debris to a landfill.

About a mile upstream of the interceptor is the Lincoln Garbage Boom, a net that has been in place for years to catch debris. “Trash removal is a very manual process” on the boom, Lee said.

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Lincoln Trash requires workers with backhoes, shovels, and other equipment to collect the rapidly accumulating trash. The net is also designed to break when the load is too high, rather than bursting, meaning that – before the interceptor – all the built-up trash can be thrown straight into the sea by heavy rain.

“Balona Creek is a straight, long concrete canal,” said Joost DuBois, Ocean Cleanup’s communications director. Current rains will test “how well the system holds up” with increased speed, as Interceptor 007 faces the fastest water of any system they’ve ever deployed: “It’s an extreme test for us,” he said. said

A video posted by the nonprofit claims that during the first major rain event of the season in November, the system collected more than 35,000 pounds of waste.

Larger storms around New Year’s brought 2 to 5 inches of rain to the Los Angeles area, and another 2 to 4 inches could fall this week, according to the National Weather Service. These storms mean more flow and potentially more debris through Ballona Creek.

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Around Dec. 28, the interceptor lost power due to a technical issue with the solar panels, the project’s county website said. “Operational challenges are not entirely unexpected during the deployment of an advanced pilot project like Interceptor 007,” the website said.

Cloudy weather caused problems charging the interceptor’s solar batteries, so workers ran a gas generator to charge them in preparation for recent rain, Lee said. DuBois said operators hope to learn from the hiccups in the interceptor’s first season.

The Ocean Cleanup began with a viral TedX talk and a subsequent crowdfunding campaign that raised millions in donations. Since 2019, the project has deployed machines in an effort to clean up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch between Hawaii and California and prevent river-borne trash from entering the oceans.

Their goal is to remove 90% of plastic floating in the world’s oceans by 2040. Most of the project’s funding comes from private donors, and corporate sponsors include shipping giants Maersk and Coca-Cola, DuBois said.

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