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It’s as predictable as the ebb and flow of the tides or a clock’s minute hand advancing to the next number – the first big rains in either October or November flush out Santa Monica’s Pico Kenter Storm Drain system sending its urban runoff directly into the ocean. 

Unquantified amounts of accumulated dry season pollutants, namely plastics, oil products, fertilizers, animal feces, bacteria, soap chemicals and industrial wastes are carried from streets to sand to sea. For six years, my students and I have documented the phenomenon (aka First Flush) day and night at this one location hoping that our captured footage would expedite positive change at the individual, corporate and policymaker levels. Alas, while reaching millions of viewers and readers through multimedia, we have come to terms that real change can be agonizingly slow.

Facing another imminent defeat, we recently pondered, “Isn’t there some way to capture the bulk of particulate waste before it reaches the ocean?” The answer is a resounding, “YES.”

We call the City of Santa Monica to action: to deploy a boom net at the mouth of the Pico Kenter Storm Drain that will collect the stream of plastic debris. Such booms have been successfully used in concrete channelized waterways like the Ballona Creek.

We’d like to emphasize that booms are only a short term fix. A paradigm shift from disposable to reusable products is the only true solution to this global issue. Further bans and moratoriums on single-use plastics as well as litter law enforcement are sorely needed. Meanwhile, we await the next big rain storm flashlight in hand, video camera packed, and emergency beach cleanup gear ready to go.

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