Officials seek solutions to river trash that washes ashore in Seal Beach

Garbage from the San Gabriel River can wash ashore in Seal Beach, as seen in this Feb. 6, 2019 photograph, taken shortly after a winter storm at the start of the year. Photo by Dave Smithson

Refuse from San Gabriel River washes ashore in Seal Beach

A council member and a planning commissioner are separately working on addressing the on-going problem of trash going into the San Gabriel River and washing up on the sands of Seal Beach. (In related news, the next Save Our Beach cleanup event in Seal Beach will be held from 9 a.m. to noon, Saturday, Aug. 17.)


The planner

Planner Robert Aguilar, who represents District Two on the Planning Commission, announced at Planning Commission meeting that he had scheduled a Friday, Aug. 16 appointment with State Sen. Tom Umberg to discuss the problem of trash washing up on the beach.

Umberg’s district includes the city of Seal Beach.

“I’d like to get cooperation from cities up the river,” Aguilar said.

Aguilar asked the public for their ideas on keeping trash out of the river. (His email address is

Aguilar told the Sun that he was not acting as a city official.

“I’m doing this as a citizen,” he said.


The councilman

According to District One Councilman Joe Kalmick, the city and local volunteers are working on addressing the beach trash problem.

At 1:02 p.m., Friday, Aug. 5, the Sun asked District One Councilman Joe Kalmick, “What’s the current status of the city’s efforts to get help from upriver cities with the cost of cleaning up trash on the beach?”

At 3:53 p.m., the same day, Kalmick emailed the following reply: “We are working on several fronts to bring focus and attention to the fact that all of the pollutants, debris and trash that come down the San Gabriel River end up on our beach. The runoff debris starts in the cities’ storm drains.

“The solution is to install catch basins in all of the storm drain inlets that ultimately empty into the river. There is apparently a state mandate to carry this out within ten years. Seal Beach has gotten a grant of some $160K, and has been installing catch basins. Our Public Works Director [Steve Myrter] is going to research and find out if the other cities have begun installing catch basins or have applied for grant money. The Save our Beach group is working on an outreach effort to the cities upriver in additional to the incredible success they have had in organizing the beach cleanup events every month. I recently attended a summit meeting in Los Angeles of the Rivers and Mountain Conservancy. The Conservancy is responsible for the watershed and the Los Angeles and San Gabriel rivers. The focus of this meeting was to discuss river projects, funding issues and some of the great success stories, most of which have occurred along the LA River. I had the opportunity to meet some of the folks from the City of LA and LA County public works departments.

“This might prove valuable as most of the river falls under LA County jurisdiction. And as the larger debris, tires, shopping carts, mattresses, etc., come from illegal dumping and homeless encampments, establishing a relationship with as many departments as possible could lead to other solutions. And at the Pier ribbon cutting ceremony I made contact with Assemblyman Tyler Diep and his field rep, and Supervisor Michele Steel and her field rep. We want to get our issue in front of them. It’s quite apparent that Orange County has shown very little interest in assisting with the San Gabriel River problem up to this point.”


Editor’s note: This article corrects typos that resulted in the incorrect spelling of Sen. Umberg’s family name and the email address for Planning Commissioner Robert Aguilar.