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News and Media

News and Media

By Founder & President Kurt Lieber

Here at ODA, we’re still excited that we were recently granted special approval to enter the secure area  where the Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge (SBNWR) is located so that we can remove marine debris. We’ve been doing cleanups here in an isolated area since February of 2017, but now we have access to the full 965-acres of this wetland.


Located in the northwest corner of Orange County, this substantial area is a critical habitat for several species of birds. Because of the vast amount of water that enters and exits with each tide, the grasses act as a kind of filter that holds onto untold amounts of plastic and other rubbish. When it rains, the waters push all the litter from inland out towards the ocean. The wetlands unfortunately receives a continual deposit of trash.

Our goal is to prevent all that plastic from getting out to the ocean, which is no more than a quarter mile away. All kinds of birds, fish, and turtles feed in these waters. I don’t have to tell you about the negative effects plastics have on the health of all these animals, (and humans, too!). 

Monthly Cleanup September

On September 6, 2023, several ODA volunteers met at the SBNWR office at 10am, and talked with the refuge manager, Mac Purvin, who suggested we go to a location where there was a lot of debris that was right next to an access road.

Here's me and Mac. We really appreciate partnering with him!

Kurt and Mac Purvin

We could park our cars there and climb down a short embankment to get to the debris field.

Check out what it looked like before:

Sept Cleanup site before

Volunteers for this cleanup were: Dave Merrill, Jean Merrill, Kent Morris, Linda Nicholes, and me.

We started where we had left off last time, in August, and within two and a half hours had filled up nine garbage bags, for an estimated total of 450 pounds. 

Sept Crew with Catch of the Day

That is a LOT of plastic! As you know, plastic is very light, so it takes A LOT to build up to that kind of weight.

We quit around 1:30pm and resolved to meet again in one month.


The beautiful migratory birds of the wetlands


Monthly October Cleanup

And that we did!  This time on October 4th.

Volunteers this time were Dave and Jean Merrill, Kent Morris, and me.

In order to avoid the scorching sun, we met at 9am and quickly got to work. 

ODA Cleanup Crew Dave and Jean

Again, we started where we had left off last time. I’d estimate that this area of debris is about a half-mile long, and on each outing, we cover about 100 yards.  This is going to take a long time, and we are just scratching the surface, as there are miles of this kind of debris field in the refuge.

Crew Kent

We grabbed our trash buckets, trash pickers, and garbage bags and two-and-a half-hours later, we had bagged another 600 pounds of stuff. Ninety-five percent of it is plastic. Tote crates, food wrappers, Styrofoam, toys, car parts, spray cans, foam mattresses, and hundreds of water bottle caps.

Crew with Catch of the Day

The weird thing with these caps, is where are all the water bottles?  Taken to a recycling center?  Headed out to sea?  I shudder to think of the latter…

We’d love to have some more help with these cleanups. If you’re in Southern California and you want to make a difference for the ocean, we welcome your help. We clean the refuge once a month, on the 1st Wednesday of each month.

Contact us if you have the time and inclination to help out our feathered and finned friends!