With the arrival of last week’s heavy rainfall came the “first flush” of the storm drains, which led to massive amounts of trash flowing onto Santa Monica beach and into the ocean.
Luckily, Santa Monica High School’s Team Marine and Heal the Bay Surfrider Club were quick on the scene to prevent the spreading of as much trash as possible.
The group of students ventured to the storm drains to collect samples, survey the damage, and start cleaning up.
Heal the Bay Surfrider Club members tested ocean water for fecal indicator bacteria, while Team Marine assessed the state of plastic pollution on the shore and performed an emergency beach cleanup after school.
“Our results indicate bacteria levels in the ocean at Pico-Kenter were the highest since the Teach and Test Program began at SaMoHi three years ago,” said club president Jessica Kendall-Bar.
Team Marine assessed the flow of plastics out of the Pico-Kenter storm drain before school for their fourth year in a row.
Their goal was to collect as much plastic as possible and to properly recycle it or throw it away, instead of letting it funnel into the ocean.
“Though this may seem like a large amount of garbage on the sand, it’s a relatively small amount compared to what flowed into the ocean earlier in the day, which is really disappointing,” said Jesse Robertson of Team Marine.
During the cleanup, students toiled for about four hours focusing on two areas totaling about 90 square meters.
Making baby piles, they removed roughly 300 pounds of garbage.
This consisted of mixed leaf litter, single use plastic films, wrappers, containers, bags, and packaging.
The amount of Styrofoam found was particularly bad this year; it made up the vast majority of non-organic waste found on the beach.
Members of the Heal the Bay Surfrider Club are currently in their third year of weekly water quality monitoring as part of the Teach and Test Program with Surfrider Foundation.
They found extremely high Enterococcus fecal-indicator bacteria levels at all three of their testing sites, located at Santa Monica Pier, Pico Kenter, and Lifeguard Station 26.
Team Marine and the Heal the Bay Surfrider Club strive to keep the coasts clean and free of plastic debris and harmful waste.
The “first flush,” which is the initial surface runoff of a rainstorm is proof that there is a lot more work to be done to protect the environment from human products and waste.
The passage of the city’s plastic bag ban and other pending state laws give hope that plastic and fecal pollution will become a thing of the past.
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