"There is an enormous amount of work to bring this river system back to where it really ought to be so that we can all enjoy clean water, free of debris, free of bacteria," said Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster.
To demonstrate how the storm drains work, officials in Long Beach simulated what happens when it rains. The retractable screen opens, water and trash go in, but a second screen inside the drain captures the debris. Crews will vacuum it out periodically. It's paid for with $10 million in federal stimulus money.
"It's very costly to remove trash from the storm drains and even more costly to remove it from our beaches," said Mark Christoffels, an engineer for the city of Long Beach. "I think the tax payers are going to see a significant return on their $10 million investment here."
"They're putting that to good use and as long as it's environmentally safe, and safe for the fishes and animals and children, I think it's a good thing," said Long Beach resident Ronald Allen.
The catch basins will keep out an estimated 840,000 pounds of trash per year, trash that flows out into the L.A. River and eventually into the ocean.
Some Long Beach residents said they look forward to reaping the benefits of cleaner beaches.
"I think it's good," said Juliet Ojeda of Long Beach. "It's about time. We can stop the pollution and it helps the environment for the ocean."
After Long Beach, the storm drains in Vernon leading to the river will be upgraded and by next June all 12,000 will be in place.