Pair settle litigation regarding Ballona Creek trash collector
Two Playa del Rey residents have settled legal action they took against Los Angeles County, the Board of Supervisors and Flood Control District regarding the board approval of a project to collect trash by placing a floating barge dumpster in waters where the Ballona Creek meets the Pacific Ocean.
Lawyers for petitioners David and Tracy Blumenthal and the county informed Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kevin C. Brazile of the accord during a hearing Thursday. No terms were divulged and the judge scheduled a Nov. 18 hearing regarding the status of the settlement.
The board’s April 5 approval of the Ballona Creek Trash Interceptor Pilot Program followed months of discussions with residents, who expressed their “utmost concern and dismay at the adverse impacts that installation and operation of a massive floating trash barge in such a sensitive location would cause,” including its potential effects on public health, noise, recreation and air quality, according to the petition brought May 16 by the Blumenthals.
Although county representatives told residents during the discussions that they would work with the public to address their concerns, the promises were “intended to stall and quiet opposition while quietly moving forward with the trash project’s permitting (process) behind the scenes,” the petition alleged.
The Blumenthals wanted a judge to order the county to set aside its approval of the interceptor project until it is in compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act.
A county Department of Public Works representative previously issued a statement regarding the petition, noting that the Ballona Creek is a 9-mile- long urban waterway that protects 1.5 million residents from flooding during storms.
“Each year, more than 30 tons of litter, floating trash and debris enters the channel via runoff from city streets,” the statement read. “Los Angeles County Public Works uses multiple strategies to reduce pollution and prevent trash from reaching the Pacific Ocean and local beaches, including community education and outreach on preventing litter, as well as trash nets and booms.
“The Ballona Creek Trash Interceptor is a floating, automated trash collection device that will be installed, studied and evaluated for feasibility and planning purposes by Los Angeles County Public Works as a pilot project over a period of two storm seasons.”
According to the petition, before the interceptor project was approved, residents stressed the importance of considering less disruptive means of reducing or collecting trash from Ballona Creek, including a trash capture project at Alla Road.
Current efforts to prevent trash from entering the ocean from the Ballona Creek include the use of floating mesh nets known as trash booms. The interceptor project, now under construction and set for completion in December, has been touted by its backers as being an improvement over the boom system because it can both collect a greater volume of debris and is not likely to overflow during heavy rains.
Countless federal- and state-listed endangered, threatened, sensitive or otherwise protected species call Ballona Creek home, including the Southern California steelhead, the El Segundo blue butterfly, the Palos Verdes blue butterfly, the western snowy plover, the southwestern willow flycatcher, the Pacific harbor seal, the California sea lion and the coastal California gnatcatcher, according to the petition.
The county did not complete a negative declaration or an environmental impact report and circulate them for public review and comment, and also presented no mitigation measures or project alternatives to the community, according to the petition.