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Thinking Ahead of the Rains: 5 Steps to Keep Waterways Clean
Thinking Ahead of the Rains: 5 Steps to Keep Waterways Clean Image

When the summer sun is shining down and there’s not a cloud in the sky, our rare LA rains are the last thing on our minds. Picnics, beach days, road trips, gardens, and summer camp adventures fill the days, and our memories of summer slowly blend into one joyous summer daze. But as the summer continues, we inch ever closer to the start of the rainy season, and with it, the first rains.

October typically marks the beginning of the rainy season in LA, and “First Flush” is what we call the first big rain event of the year. It gets this funny name because of all of the things (trash, pesticides, fertilizers, dog waste, and other pollutants) that have accumulated on the ground over the long dry summer that get picked up by the rainwater and carried to storm drains. Once in a storm drain, this debris is “flushed” directly into the ocean. This is what the first rain event of the season looked like last year. Here are 5 actions you can take to limit pollution during the warmer months to ensure a clean first flush in the fall.

  1. Animal waste. You might wonder why you have to pick up your dog’s poop while wildlife constantly leaves theirs on the ground. The difference is that wild animals are eating food that is already found in the ecosystem, and then quickly returning those same nutrients to the system. Your dog eats artificially nutrient-rich food designed to support its health, but the waste a dog creates also contains way more nutrients than the scat left by a wild animal. Too many nutrients lead to algal blooms in our waterways and create ideal habitats for invasive plants to flourish!
  2. Don’t drop your butts! Smoking in the Los Angeles area creates about 900,000 pieces of trash every month, and cigarette butts contain dangerous chemicals (arsenic, lead, and nicotine, to name a few) that are toxic to freshwater and saltwater organisms! If you see an overflowing trash can, don’t pile more on! Pocket ashtrays are a good way of holding onto your butts without stinking up your hands or pockets. You can order them online or improvise—mini M&Ms® tubes make great ashtrays! 
  3. Applying pesticides too heavily. This action will upset the natural balance of your soil by killing favorable organisms. Over time, the overuse of pesticides will require more and more chemicals to keep pests at bay. Our friends at the UC Master Gardener Program have lots of great resources about gardening in the Los Angeles Area. If you have questions or want tips, their website and Facebook page are good places to start, but you can also call or email their helpline directly at (626) 586-1988 or contact mglosangeleshelpline@ucdavis.edu.
  4. One gallon of motor oil pollutes 1 million gallons of water. If you change your motor oil yourself you know how nasty it is. But did you know that there are 7 S.A.F.E Collection centers in Los Angeles where you can drop off hazardous waste for free? Hazardous waste includes pesticides and fertilizers. Click this link to find a location near you.  
  5. Keep storm drains clear of trash. Every year, streets in Los Angeles flood because storm drains are blocked. Has this ever happened in your neighborhood? You can easily prevent this by keeping an eye on the drains near your home. As the rainy season approaches, periodically clear them of trash and other debris that could lead to clogs and flooding this winter—just remember to wear gloves!!

Have questions about our blog or great ideas to limit ocean pollution this winter? Feel free to leave us a comment! 

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