After back-to-back January atmospheric rivers dumped rain over Los Angeles, Ballona Creek’s 007 Trash Interceptor was in disrepair.
Debris carried downriver by turbulent high water had damaged one of two barrier system nets at the mouth of Ballona Creek near Playa del Rey, allowing trash to flow into the Pacific until crews could connect a “temporary floating barrier” at the end of January to guide the garbage towards the collector, a county website saying.
Interceptor 007 has fared much better during the storms that have battered Southern California in recent weeks, trapping thousands of pounds of trash even after an earlier barrier system upriver failed.
Since it was installed in October, it has collected more than 60 tons, or about 121,500 pounds, of trash that would otherwise have been dumped into Santa Monica Bay. Approximately 35,000 pounds of that total have been caught since January’s atmospheric river storms.
The solar-powered trash interceptor, one of the few developed by Ocean Cleanup, is the result of a partnership between the Dutch non-profit organization and Los Angeles County, making it the first system of its kind to operate in the US it picks up floating debris a few hundred yards before it is released from Ballona Creek, and crews can send the trash to a landfill.
After the storm damaged the network in January, a permanent repair was made on February 9, as the storms continued to push water down the creek and trash into the machine. Since then, it has been “doing very well,” said Kerjon Lee, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works.
A month later, on March 10, “heavy rain and turbulent water flows” caused a trash collection barrier to fail about a mile upstream of Interceptor 007 on Lincoln Boulevard, according to the county.
In the past, Lee said, “a lot of material” was carried out to sea after some major storms because too much pressure from the accumulated trash would compromise Lincoln’s garbage boom, which has been around for years and requires crews with backhoes, shovels and other tools to collect the garbage that accumulates there.
“We’re used to seeing 30 to 60 tons of trash go by” and into the ocean, Lee said, but this year Interceptor 007 has stepped up.
When the Lincoln garbage boom failed this month, Lee said, all the debris that had accumulated there was picked up downstream by the interceptor, which is designed to operate mostly autonomously. A March 12 dump of some 10,900 pounds of junk from the interceptor reflected the additional material.
“We are very pleased with his progress in the first year,” Lee said.
The Ocean Cleanup began with a viral TedX talk and a subsequent crowdfunding campaign that raised millions in donations.
Since 2019, the project has deployed machines in an attempt to clean up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, located between Hawaii and California, and prevent trash carried by rivers from reaching the oceans.
Their goal is to eliminate 90% of all floating plastic in the world’s oceans by 2040.
With more storms on the horizon, the Ballona Creek garbage collector’s first storm season isn’t over yet. But as even more rain falls on Los Angeles in an already wet year, it looks like Interceptor 007 will be up to the mission.