Arboretum works to clean up Baldwin Lake storm water pollution

ARCADIA, Calif. -- It once served as a picturesque location for movies and TV shows, but today runoff and pollution problems leave Baldwin Lake at the L.A. County Arboretum in dire need of restoration. There's a plan to bring it back to its former glory.

Baldwin Lake has been a favored paradise of Hollywood directors: What you see today at the Arboretum may look familiar, from the "Tarzan" movies to Jennifer Lopez in "Anaconda," and of course TV's "Fantasy Island."

Today, the setting struggles with pollution. The lake collects storm water from the foothills above Arcadia that rolls in.

"Grease and oil and other unwanted chemicals, as happens in all urban watersheds," said Richard Schulhof, L.A. County Arboretum and Botanic Garden CEO.

It's happening throughout the Southland. And now many sites must work together with Los Angeles County to clean up and create basins that filter and store storm water.

The L.A. County Department of Public Works says your region may be impacted too.

"You actually have over 85 cities in the county are looking at meeting these same water quality requirements and different size groups within these various watersheds have banded together to conduct this kind of planning effort," said Gary Hildebrand, L.A. County Dept. of Public Works assistant deputy director of watershed management.

Meantime the tainted silt beneath the surface is growing. The original lake depth was 12 feet; now it is 30 inches.

The Arboretum is assembling a task force and will lobby to fast-track lake restoration.

"Three-hundred-thousand people a year are coming here and thousands of school kids, so I think it delivers more value to the community than just about any other site I can think of," said Schulhof.

Public Works says there's a way people can help right now.

"Properly disposing of your trash and debris, don't throw it out on the street, cleaning up after your pets," said Hildebrand.

That can make a big difference downstream.

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