The Westside Water Quality Improvement Project — Sawtelle Channel (SAC) was dedicated Thursday morning, November 9th, by officials from Santa Monica, the City of Los Angeles, Los Angeles County and the State of California.

Lying beneath a Mar Vista Park parking lot at Palms Boulevard and McLaughlin Avenue, the facility is designed to treat urban runoff from the east side of Santa Monica and parts of West Los Angeles, according to City of Los Angeles Department of Public Works officials.

Urban runoff is “water that flows off of our streets and flows untreated to the Bay every day, whether it’s raining or not,” says Neal Shapiro, urban runoff management coordinator for Santa Monica. It is also the single largest source of water pollution in the region, he said.

Shapiro says that treating urban runoff before it reaches Ballona Creek and Santa Monica Bay is vital to protecting the ocean resources upon which the economy and millions of residents rely.

“The facility works unobserved to remove trash, sand, oil, grease and the soluble pollutants and bacteria attached to the trash, from the water flowing through the adjacent storm drain that feeds into Ballona Creek,” said Shapiro. “It treats both dry and wet weather runoff coming from Santa Monica’s eastern border and West Los Angeles using the force of gravity-fed water flows.”

The system will also remove floatables and soluble pollutants.

“The project should have a significant positive impact on dry weather runoff quality from the Sawtelle Channel because trash, sediments, oil, grease, organic chemicals and heavy metals will be removed,” Shapiro said. “Much wet weather will get treatment in the primary unit for trash, debris, sediments. We will have to wait and see what kind of impact [occurs] downstream in Ballona Creek and the Bay.”

The facility, which cost approximately $1.7 million, is funded by the State of California, with some additional funding from Santa Monica, the City of Los Angeles Departments of Public Works and Recreation and Parks and the County of Los Angeles Public Works Department.

Shapiro believes the project is a “superb example of government agencies working together for a common society good.”

“And it’s great news for the environment, its wildlife and habitats and people who use and depend upon our local Bay waters, protecting water quality and beneficial uses,” Shapiro said. “This project is a great step forward in the City’s efforts to treat all dry weather runoff leaving its borders and most wet weather runoff.”

The facility lies deep underground and is confined to large vaults beneath the Mar Vista Park parking lot, Shapiro said. It will not affect parking at Mar Vista Park, as the facility is beneath the lot.

It consists of five chambers and uses three separate processes to treat and improve the quality of runoff — screening, sedimentation and direct filtration.

A rough estimate of what it will cost yearly to maintain the facility is around $7,500, Shapiro said.

For more information on the Westside Water Quality Improvement Project, www.santa-monica.org/epd and click on the “Westside Urban Runoff Treatment Facility” link.

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