Winter Rains Bring Attention to Los Angeles River

30 April, 2017

It's time for spring-cleaning in Los Angeles.

Usually that term relates to housekeeping: throwing away unwanted items, organizing closets, and washing places that have become dirty over the winter.

But in this case, we are talking about the massive project of cleaning up the Los Angeles River in Southern California.

The river runs about 80 kilometers and passes through 14 cities. It ends at the Pacific Ocean in Long Beach.

Usually the riverbed has very little water. But not now. California received record-breaking rainfall over the winter. As a result, the river is full again.

All the water has brought plants, animals, and trash. Lots of trash. Plastic bags, paper cups and even old pieces of furniture found their way into the river.

In addition, water wiped out camps on the riverbank where homeless people were living.

Now volunteers are working to clean up the mess.


Lauren Scott works for the American Chemistry Council. It is a business group. Many of the group's members are companies that produce plastic items for people to use. Some of those items wound up in the river.

Lauren Scott, LA River Cleanup Volunteer
Lauren Scott, LA River Cleanup Volunteer

Along with picking up trash, Scott is trying to figure out what her organization can do to prevent trash from getting into the waterway.

"Because everyone wants a clean river that we can swim and boat and hike in."

Candace Cable was out cleaning up the river, picking up trash from her wheelchair. She is a Paralympic Athlete. She is part of a group working to get the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games to Los Angeles.

She hopes supporters of Los Angeles' efforts to get the Olympics will help clean up the river, too.

Christine Lee is a science applications engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, not too far from Los Angeles. She uses satellites to study water quality. She said waterways in cities are important for keeping plants, animals and people healthy.

For example, the Los Angeles River helps control floods and keeps wetlands healthy. Wetlands are home to many important plants and animals.

Some people feel like the annual cleanup is already making a difference. Residents are using walking and biking paths along the river more frequently than they used to.

Lois Keller, another cleanup volunteer, said:

"It's been really exciting to start to see the river come back."

I'm Jill Robbins.

Mike O'Sullivan wrote this story for VOANews. Dan Friedell adapted it for Learning English. Kelly Jean Kelly was the editor.

Do you want to clean up a river in your city? We want to know. Write to us in the Comments Section or on 51VOA.COM.


Words in This Story

massive – adj. very large and heavy

wipe out – v. to destroy or cause great harm to something

council – n. a group of people who provide advice or guidance on something

propulsion – n. the force that moves something forward : the force that propels something