Glendale’s Trash Exclusion Program Helps Keep Downstream Beaches Clean

The City of Glendale won an Award of Excellence in the Planning and Environmental Quality category of the 2006 Helen Putnam Award for Excellence program. For more information, visit

The City of Glendale is the third largest city in Los Angeles County, spanning more than 30 square miles. Home to 205,000 ethnically diverse residents, Glendale is known for its rich history and natural beauty. The Los Angeles River runs through the city, making Glendale part of its watershed, and then flows south through Los Angeles until it reaches the Pacific Ocean at Long Beach. Pollution from runoff, particularly in the rainy season, can create toxic, hazardous conditions at the beaches along the coast. This is a concern for all the cities in the river’s 50-mile watershed. So Glendale launched an innovative program to educate residents about the problem and capture water-borne litter before it reaches the river.

Stormwater Management

The National Pollutant Discharge Elimi nation System (NPDES) was created in 1972 under the federal Clean Water Act. The program is designed to track identifiable sources that discharge pollutants into streams, lakes and rivers, and requires each state to implement controls neces sary to maintain, protect and restore water quality. The NPDES program initially targeted easily detected sources of water pollution, such as municipal sewage and industrial wastewater, and succeeded in improving water quality. As the NPDES program evolved, it focused on other significant sources of water pollution, including stormwater.

The NPDES program requires municipalities to obtain permits for stormwater discharges. In California, the state Water Resources Control Board has the authority to implement the NPDES permitting program to meet federal standards. Once a municipality obtains its NPDES permit, the conditions of the permit must be satisfied, and periodic reports must be submitted to the NPDES permitting authority on the status and effectiveness of the local government stormwater management program.

The Los Angeles River runs through 18 cities on its way to the ocean. In the rainy season, thousands of tons of trash are swept into the river via streets, curbs, gutters, catch basins and storm drains. This waste, which can be highly toxic, ends up on shoreline beaches and in the ocean. As a result, state regulators are increasingly concerned about contaminated water supplies in the region.

In accordance with state and federal requirements to preserve and enhance water quality in the Los Angeles Basin River Watershed, the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board (LARWQCB) developed a total maximum daily load (TMDL). Compliance with the TMDL requires cities to reduce trash from their baseline waste load allocation. For the purposes of the TMDL, trash consists of litter and particles of litter as small as 5 millimeters. The LARWQCB requires that the amount of trash that enters Glen dale ’s storm drain system be reduced by 10 percent every year for five years. Failure to comply with the TMDL requirements can result in stiff fines for the city.

“Trash” Defined

Because the California Government Code definition of “trash” includes litter and particles of litter as small as 5 millimeters, eliminating man-made trash that enters the storm drain system and receiving waters has been challenging. Consequently, the city has implemented a three-step approach to comply with NPDES permitting requirements. These methods include a public outreach and education campaign, frequent street sweeping in high-density neighborhoods and commercial areas, and installing fixtures in catch basins that trap litter and prevent it from passing into the city’s storm drain system.

The Environmental Management Section of Glendale’s Public Works Department launched a public education campaign in conjunction with the city’s Public Information Office. Public service announcements broadcast on the local government TV channel address the hazards of dumping illegal materials into the storm drain system. Stormwater pollution prevention articles published in Glendale’s quarterly newsletter offer tips on eliminating identifiable sources of pollution from commercial and residential household activities. Pre-show announcements at the local theaters focus on eliminating litter from city streets. The outreach program also includes presentations to schools, and city staff encouraged community participation by engaging school children to enter into a community poster contest depicting elimination of stormwater pollution.

Concurrently, the Glendale Public Works Department conducted an in-depth study of weekly street sweeping. Staff assessed the feasibility of increased street sweeping and signage on all city streets, and deter mined that a practical approach would be to increase street sweeping routes in high-density neighborhoods and commercial areas.

Inventive Capturing

The Environmental Management Section staff then considered numerous commercially available trash-capturing devices that can be placed in the storm drain system. They evaluated the massive continuous deflection systems that separate floating trash from stormwater flows. In testing some of the excluders, staff found that most of these methods were maintenance intensive and cost prohibitive. Further more, they did not comply with the 5 millimeter requirement. Therefore, staff designed a mechanism that captures litter particles at the catch basins and prevents them from entering the city’s storm drain system. This effective and efficient system utilizes a brush installed over the catch basin opening and a perforated sheet of aluminum screen with 5 millimeter holes inside the catch basin. The brush prohibits larger debris items, such as bottles, cans and plastic cups, from entering the catch basin so they can be picked up by street sweepers. The interior screen prevents any debris greater than 5 millimeters from entering the outfall pipe. The device was tested and documented for effectiveness in both dry and wet weather, including major winter storms.

The City of Glendale shared the innovative design mechanism of catch basin trash excluders through the Public Works Four Cities working group, which includes the Public Works Departments from Glen dale , Burbank, Pasadena and La Canada Flintridge. This group meets regularly to address public works-related issues on a subregional basis. The group made a submission to the LARWQCB request ing certification of the trash excluder device. All four cities received approval from the regional board certifying the trash excluder device as a 100 percent compliant best management practice for 5 millimeter trash control. Glendale and the other three cities are the first to receive such certification for an innovative 5 millimeter trash exclusion system.

Contact: Maurice Oillataguerre, senior environmental program specialist, City of Glendale, Public Works Department; phone: (818) 548-3900; e-mail:; or Alina Morshidian, administrative analyst; phone: (818) 548-3900; e-mail:

This article appears in the July 2007 issue of Western City
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