In Long Beach, taking a dip in the ocean in summer months is, for the most part, perfectly safe. In rainy weather, forget about it.
A plan to remedy that problem is the Municipal Urban Stormwater Treatment project, which is moving forward after city approvals earlier this year.
After a “first flush” or first rain, large amounts of pollutants from the city’s streets and gutters are regularly carried into the ocean and Los Angeles and San Gabriel rivers. The LB-MUST project, nearing the end of its preliminary design phase, promises to capture water in underground pipes or pumps that will carry it to a facility where it will be treated.
This project is really the first of its kind of this size,” said Sean Crumby, deputy director and city engineer for Public Works, adding that Santa Monica also has a smaller project in operation.
LB-MUST is set to be built just south of Shoemaker Bridge along the east bank of the Los Angeles River.
Construction on the $30 million project is set to begin next year. The City Council in January approved an item to complete the environmental process and award a design contract.
The project is slated to finish design this year, begin construction in 2019 and likely be operational in 2020.
According to Heal the Bay’s Beach Report Card, the majority of the beaches in Long Beach tend to score As and Bs in dry summer months. In wet weather, the grades plummet to Ds and Fs.
The goal for the project is not only to correct the issue of water pollution in the city’s beaches and rivers, but to reclaim and reuse captured water, which Crumby said will require separate funding.
“This is really the first phase in a bigger project and we’re out looking for funding right now to build the entire project,” Crumby said. “That would come after the initial phases are closed.”
The recycled water would be used to sustain wetlands riparian habitat and possibly for irrigation around the city.
Out of the $30 million in funding, $28 million will be allocated from Caltrans and is restricted for the sole purpose of capturing and cleaning water. The remaining $2 million was awarded by the Lower Los Angeles Rivers and Mountains Conservancy, which will pay for the construction of wetlands around the facility.
The wetlands, Crumby said, will provide a place for the water to be stored and will function as a recreational space for walkers, hikers, bikers and others.
“The goals of the facility as we’re beginning the final design are that we design and create an inviting facility that brings the public into the property,” Crumby said.
Cleaning polluted water is mandated by the state, and all of the cities within Los Angeles county must comply.
“The requirements are pretty tough now so a lot of cities are struggling to comply without breaking the bank, so a lot of people are looking for solutions,” said Bryan Langpap, spokesman for the Sanitation District of Los Angeles.
Although the Sanitation District does not play a part in the process of LB-MUST, Langpap said the agency has been playing a bigger role in stormwater projects in various cities after Senate Bill 485 was passed in 2016. The bill expanded the sanitation authority to help local cities with stormwater issues.
“We’re excited to see people doing this,” Langpap said. “I used to live in Belmont Shore and I remember the way the beaches used to be after a storm and it’s not ideal.”