Industrial Strength Expands Anti-Pollution Effort

City and county officials here are beefing up a 2-year-old ad campaign that addresses the nagging problem of trash washing into storm drains. The educational campaign, designed by the shop Industrial Strength, now has a budget of nearly $5 million, which should carry it for at least three more years.

The effort, known as Project Pollution Prevention, began in 1999 with newspaper ads highlighting the risks of throwing trash away improperly. They warned that small items such as dog waste, cigarette butts and fast-food wrappers can cause ocean pollution and flooding, leading to increased health risks.

Those ads will continue, and are joined by six radio spots and a print component dubbed “Street Stories.”

Alex Couchman, owner/principal of Industrial Strength, said the radio spots use “classic fall-guy comedy.” In one, a talking storm drain complains about becoming ill due to excessive trash, and a voiceover cautions that the next rainy season is likely to bring more of the same. The same message is conveyed in illustrated “Street Stories” print ads slated to appear in LA Weekly.

Couchman said the spots focus on potential health risks for individual homes and families. “We aimed for what motivates the individual,” he said. “When you’re dealing with a place like Los Angeles, that’s not necessarily the beaches, but it is people’s homes.”

Joyce Amaro, city manager for the project, said the value of the ads is not limited to Los Angeles. “The educational material of Project Pollution Prevention is available on a nationwide basis,” she said, including the www.lastormwater.org Web site.

Officials coordinating the project said awareness has grown significantly since 1999. Back then, they said, people in L.A. County had virtually no knowledge of the problem.

Ads could be extended into other regions with similar situations.