Inside Seven
Current Issue: September 2014
A GSRD seen alongside of the freeway.

Caltrans Helps Get the Lumps and Junk Out of the Water
by  Patrick Chandler
Issue Date: 09/2010

[Click on photos to read captions.]

Every year Caltrans picks up enough trash to fill the Los Angeles Coliseum about 28 feet high. This trash is unsightly and costly, it also damages the environment and water quality in waterways. 
When motorists toss litter (or gross solids) onto the freeway the debris can be carried by rain water into a Caltrans storm drain and eventually end up in nearby waterways polluting the water with fast-food wrappers, soda cans, and vegetation to name a few. 

To improve water quality and reduce the amount of gross solids flowing into Los Angeles area waterways from state highway drains, a new storm drainage system had to be created. Caltrans, working with the University of California, Davis and California State University, Sacramento on a pilot project developed gross solid removal devices (GSRD) in 2000. 

As part of a pilot project, the federal government and state water management governing boards, Caltrans and its university partners created non-proprietary devices to prevent trash from entering into water ways. Eventually, as part of the pilot program, Caltrans established the Storm Drain Litter Removal Program. This multi¬year program in compliance with state water quality regulations, seeks to reduce the amount of litter reaching the Los Angeles River and Ballona Creek with the use of GSRDs. 

GSRDs traps gross solids or litter within a mesh screen area of the storm drain. The system is encased in a concrete structure with grate cover to allow easy access for maintenance crews to remove trapped litter.
In fall 2006, Caltrans began installing GSRDs, with a program target of 10% annual reduction in litter that could potentially pollute waterways. 

"Caltrans has created an innovative and cost-effective way to protect the environment and water quality," said Ron Kosinski, deputy district director of Environmental Planning. 

So far, GSRDs have been installed along the San Bernardino Freeway (I-10) in Rosemead and the Hollywood Freeway (SR-170) in Van Nuys. GSRDs will be installed on a yearly basis through 2013 in District 7. 

GSRDs are just one of the tools that District 7 uses to help keep our waterways clean. Recently, Caltrans has begun using a new generation of devices. “We wanted to have a device that collects trash and collect many of the unseen materials that could wash off the freeway into waterways," said Project Manager Ojas Sheth. 

The sand filter and media filter are innovations stemming from GSRDs. "These filters are able to trap heavy metals, micro-organisms, bacteria, and other pollutants," said Program Advisor Jai Paul Thakur. “It shows that Caltrans is doing it part to help reduce dangerous impacts to the ecosystems in Los Angeles' water ways."

The GSRDs are yet another example of Caltrans efforts to improve the quality of life beyond the freeways and highways.

The GSRDS and the filters are an example of Caltrans ingenuity and willingness to step up help protect the environment. Who knows what Caltrans will think up next.


An accumulation of trapped gross solids or trash. Diagram