The Los Angeles River near the Willow Street Bridge.
Soon, the water in the beaches off Long Beach will be cleaner, thanks in part to a partnership entered into by the city with California Department of Transportation last night that authorized the design and construction of an urban stormwater treatment project.
The LB-MUST project will include a a stormwater treatment and recycling plant just south of the Shoemaker Bridge which will treat urban runoff from storm drains prior from it going into the Los Angeles River. It could also help the city avoid potentially expensive fines for pollutants finding their way into the ocean.
The city already has screens in place at multiple pump stations along the river but nothing that actually treats the water that’s entering its flow. LB-MUST, in its proposed condition, will treat just over 40 percent of dry-weather runoff which could include harmful pollutants like bacteria, metals and trash.
“Some of the dirtiest water that we see is when we get the first inch or so of rain and it would allow for the treatment of that water before going into the LA River,” said Department of Public Works Director Craig Beck. “And we all know the LA River flows into our bays and our beach areas.”
The alliance with CalTrans will reimburse the city upward of $28 million for eligible project expenditures for the design and construction of the facility but will not cover the ongoing expenses of maintaining and facility costs. A memo from Beck to the city council stated that those costs cannot currently be projected, but when they are, “a funding source will be identified and requested through the annual budget process.”
In return for participating in the project, CalTrans will receive “compliance unit” credits toward meeting their National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit requirements.
The project was applauded by members of the council, as it will not only help ensure that more clean water enters the Los Angeles River before entering the Pacific Ocean, but also will create a source of recycled water to irrigate parks with. The city currently has a reclaimed water system that services some parts of the city, but its pipes do not branch out into all communities.
“It’s a great opportunity to not only get involved more as we’ve been trying to do with the LA River, but we see all the consequences of what happens up north of us so this is a great effort to be able to use some of that runoff, clean it up and repurpose it and reuse it,” said Seventh District Councilman Roberto Uranga, who represents a part of the city that lacks access to reclaimed water. “We don’t have enough recycled water in Long Beach and in our parks and I see this as a project that will greatly benefit at least those two parts.”
The project will be folded into the rebuild of the Shoemaker Bridge that’s scheduled to be completed by the end of the decade. A separate grant application submitted to the San Gabriel and Lower Los Angeles River and Mountains Conservancy for the construction of a wetlands area surrounding the project cite could allow for future enhancements of the project.
Beck said that although the current capability of the project will allow for about 5,000 acres of the watershed system to be treated, with any future escalations in funding the project could grow to be able to treat all of the water entering the Los Angeles River through urban storm drains.
“One of the benefits of the design we’ve put together is it will allow expansion,” Beck said. “We’d like to capture 100 percent of that watershed with this facility. With future funding and future expansion we’d be able to capture all that.”