The atmospheric river storm that hit California this week marks the testing of an experimental waste collection system aimed at keeping plastic bottles, diapers and other trash from reaching the Pacific Ocean. bottom.
A solar power system designed to operate almost autonomously was installed at the mouth of Barona Creek near Playa del Rey in October.
The Ballona Creek Trash Interceptor 007 is one of several such machines created by the Dutch nonprofit Ocean Cleanup and is the first such device to be installed in the United States. There are 10 more deployed around the world, of which 8 are in operation, 2 are down for maintenance, and 10 more will be deployed this year.
A motion filed with the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in November 2019 described the partnership with Ocean Cleanup as a pilot project spanning two storm seasons from October through April.
Although Ocean Cleanup is not covered, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works is staffing the Litter Interceptor at the taxpayer’s expense through the Los Angeles County Flood Fund with the assistance of contractor Ocean Blue. increase.
During the pilot period, the Interceptor will be exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act, a law that requires environmental impact assessments for development and land use decisions.
Beginning in April 2024, the Los Angeles County Flood Control District will have the option to control interceptors at no cost, “further environmental review may be required,” the motion said.
The streets of Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, parts of Los Angeles, Culver City, and unincorporated Los Angeles County in Los Angeles County “drain water into the storm drainage network, which moves water from the roadway into the storm drainage system and drains it through Barona Creek.” We are,” Los Angeles County Department of Public Works spokesman Carjon Lee told The Times.
The nine-mile creek watershed spans an area containing about 1.5 million residents, Lee said.
The Interceptor collects drifting trash hundreds of yards before it is released from the creek, allowing the crew to send the trash to a landfill.
About a mile upstream from the Interceptor is the Lincoln Trash Boom, a net that has been in place for years to trap trash. “Removing the trash is a very manual process,” Lee said during the boom.
Lincoln’s Garbage Boom requires workers with backhoes, shovels and other tools to collect piles of trash.
Also, the net is designed to break rather than tear if the load is too large. In other words, before the Interceptor, a heavy rain could wash all the accumulated trash straight into the ocean.
“Barrhona Creek is a straight, long concrete canal,” says Joost Dubois, director of communications for Ocean Cleanup.
Interceptor 007 faces faster water than any system deployed, so the current rain will test “how the system holds up” and “this is an extreme test for us.” He said.
According to a video posted by the nonprofit, the system collected more than 35,000 pounds of waste during the first heavy rains of the season in November.
Much bigger storms around New Year’s will bring 2 to 5 inches of rain to the Los Angeles area, with another 2 to 4 inches likely this week, according to the National Weather Service.
These storms mean more runoff from Ballona Creek, which can lead to more debris.
Around Dec. 28, the Interceptor lost power due to a technical problem with its solar panels, according to the project’s county website.
“When deploying an innovative pilot project like the Interceptor 007, operational challenges are not entirely unexpected,” the website says.
Lee said cloudy weather caused problems with charging the Interceptor’s solar cells, so in preparation for the recent rains, workers activated the gas generators to charge them.
Dubois said the operator hopes to learn from the problems encountered in the first season of Interceptor.
The Ocean Cleanup began with a viral TedX talk and subsequent crowdfunding campaign that raised millions of dollars in donations.
Since 2019, the project has deployed machines to clean up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, located between Hawaii and California, and stop river-borne garbage from entering the ocean.
The goal is to remove 90% of all plastic from the world’s oceans by 2040.
Dubois said most of the project’s funding came from private donors, with corporate sponsors including shipping giants Maersk and Coca-Cola.