by Angelina H.
Cigarette butts, plastic bottles, and wrappers blanketed the sand. Trash had spewed out of the storm drain. This is known as the "First Flush", the surface runoff that occurs after a rainstorm.
The majority of the rainfall in Los Angeles occurs in the months of November and March and contaminants build up May through October. After the first significant rainfall, the water carries pollution from streets, driveways and curbs into the storm drains. Then, the pollutants accumulated in storm drains are washed out by the rain. This past year, the largest rainfall happened in November. As we head into March and prepare for another month of heavy rain, it is a good time to reflect back on the impacts of last November’s rainfall.
On November 8, 2012, a small “gurgle” (not quite the First Flush yet), was caused by light rains. On November 16, there was a heavier rainfall. Team Marine, a youth-led organization at Santa Monica High School that focuses on issues of plastic pollution, ocean acidification, and climate change, headed down to the Pico-Kenter storm drain for an emergency beach clean-up. We were armed with buckets, gloves, and trash bags, ready to battle the trash and pollution that blanketed the beach. Eight months of trash that had been accumulating in the storm drain during the dry seasons had been released. We discovered that the majority of the trash was plastic (water bottles, bags, and utensils). That day, Team Marine removed more than 75 pounds of trash during the beach cleanup that lasted for two hours.
We had planned to use the recyclables we collected from the cleanup to purchase Lifestraws, which are water purifying straws that are sent to third world countries without access to clean drinking water. However, we instead gave our “loot” to a “professional recycler”, a homeless man who needed the money from the recyclables to buy food and other necessities. Although we were unable to purchase Lifestraws as we had intended, Team Marine agreed that helping the homeless man was also a way of giving back to the community.
The emergency beach cleanup shows the interconnectedness of issues in the community and highlights all three areas of the Jane Goodall Institute’s message: protecting humans, animals, and the environment. We, as humans, have a responsibility to create a better Earth, especially because the trash polluting our environment originates from us. By cleaning up the beach after the First Flush, we were helping the environment and restoring the marine animals’ habitat.
My participation in this emergency clean-up demonstrates the power of taking matters into your hands and the importance of reacting to a changing environment. Through responding to the First Flush with immediate action, we were able to attack the pollution crisis in a determined and effective manner.