The futuristic-looking trash removal feature introduced to Ballona Creek several months ago was put to the test recently with the first major rain events since its installation sending thousands of pounds of trash down the waterway.
The Ballona Creek Trash Inceptor 007 is a floating, automated, solar-powered boat-like device located in the middle of the creek near where it feeds out into the Santa Monica Bay. Two booms extend outwards from the interceptor on either side all the way to the banks of the creek, creating a funnel shape that directs trash to the interceptor which sucks it in via a conveyor belt and disperses it into bins to await collection.
LA County Department of Public Works Public Information Officer Steven Frasher said the Interceptor performed well during the recent storms, collecting 49,845 pounds of trash this past weekend alone that otherwise would have ended up in the bay and on the beaches.
“This is a byproduct that comes from the flushing effect of a rain storm on discarded litter and trash and other pollutants that gets tossed around in the upper watershed – that’s about 120 square miles of Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, West Hollywood. Culver City, right on down to Playa Del Rey, and this materialist gets caught up in the creek,” Frasher said.
He said the LA County Board of Supervisors decided something needed to be done urgently to address the issue in 2019. Around the same time, he said the County was approached by non-profit organization The Ocean Cleanup who were looking for a US site to pilot their trash interceptor technology. Ballona Creek arose as the perfect candidate.
“The Los Angeles River, for example, is too big and flows too strong for the interceptor to stay in place,” Frasher said. “Because the Ballona Creek is a manageable size, but does have that urban watershed it made it the ideal test location for the pilot.”
The interceptor became operational in October 2022, and, while Fraser said the interceptor has largely lived up to its mission, there have been some hiccups, including an issue charging the solar panels this last weekend that is still in the process of being resolved.
“Because it’s a pilot, it’s a constant learning process,” he said. Adding that the issue did not affect the interceptors ability to successfully collect trash.
The Ballona interceptor is the first of its kind in North America – several are in place in Southeast Asia and the Caribbean – making it of high interest to other municipalities.
“There’s both Los Angeles County and jurisdictions throughout the country watching what our experience is and we’re documenting our experience so that we can all learn how a trash interceptor as a concept can work in this urban watershed environment,” Frasher said.
In the meantime, he said he hopes the Ballona Interceptor draws attention to the issues of trash and pollution and actions people can take to address them and help keep the bay cleaner.
“So much of our trash is the result of people’s behavior upstream,” he said. “We hope that awareness helps eliminate some of that trash and pollution at the source, not only in the Ballona Creek watershed, but just in practice wherever you live.”
For more information about the Interceptor 007 visit: https://ballonainterceptor.lacounty.gov/