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Health risk: Rain sweeps trash into ocean

January 7, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
This weekend's rainfall carried trash and debris through storm drains and down creeks and rivers, right into the ocean, and there's concern now the bacteria could cause health problems.It's one of the unfortunate things that can happen after a rainstorm in Los Angeles -- a lot of trash makes its way to Long Beach and to the ocean. That can raise the bacteria level in the water to a dangerously high level. That's why health officials are advising everyone to stay out of the water for the next three days.

It's a disturbing sight: Styrofoam cups, cans, and other trash floating alongside wildlife in the Long Beach Marina. Rainfall washes debris into storm drains and creeks that feed into the L.A. River. The river dumps the garbage in Long Beach, where some of it eventually flows into the ocean.

"It makes me really angry, after holidays and things like the Fourth of July, people just leave garbage all over," said beachgoer Kathy Panatone. "And it's so simple just to pick up your own and put it away."

There are debris booms placed in the water to corral the mess. Long Beach officials say this weekend's storms are producing a moderate flow of trash that will start washing up on the beaches. Over the next few days, workers will collect an estimated 125-150 tons of debris.

"We try and catch it before it comes to the ocean," said Ken Herbage, the Supt. of Beach Maintenance. "You know, it's kind of hard, a lot of it ends up on the beach. We don't know how much of it submerges, but we get as much as quickly as we can off the beach."

Beachgoers are advised to stay out of the ocean for at least the next three days because the storm runoff can raise the bacteria level in the water to dangerously high levels.

"I was sad, because it's certainly not a nice view," said beachgoer Carol Bertino. "And I'm sure the wildlife is damaged by it all the time. You'll see dead birds up on the beach."

The health advisory is in effect for the next three days, but it could be extended if we get more rainfall.


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