Water pipes serving about 20,000 people in South Los Angeles will be flushed out over the next several weeks, following complaints of cloudy water by officials at some Los Angeles Unified School District campuses.
Five schools, two of which are in the city of Los Angeles, have stopped using DWP water and have switched to using bottled water, according to Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson.
A South Los Angeles activist brought bottles of brown-colored water to today’s City Council meeting, saying they were provided by residents who said the samples came from their taps.
Tim Watkins of the Watts Labor Community Action Committee said residents are talking about installing water filtration systems.
“I think that’s an inappropriate response to a problem that should be resolved from a municipal standpoint,” Watkins told the council.
The four schools that have opted to stop using DWP water are Flournoy Elementary, Compton Avenue Elementary, 96th St. Elementary, Florence Griffith-Joyner Elementary, and Grape Street Elementary according to DWP spokeswoman Amanda Parsons.
DWP Water Operations Manager Marty Adams told the council that LAUSD officials notified them last Thursday about the cloudy water, and over the weekend the utility company was told the schools were using bottled water.
Adams said DWP officials did not see any cloudiness in the water during a test on Friday, but that cloudy water occurs intermittently.
He said the “first indication” of problems with cloudy water came in February when a fire hydrant was knocked over, causing high water flows that may have stirred up sediment in the pipe. Since then, the DWP has had “quite a few calls,” Adams said.
DWP officials are unsure of the exact source of the sediment and will be investigating as they move forward with the pipe-flushing, which is expected to be done over the next month or longer, Adams said.
He also said most of the pipes in South Los Angeles were “re-plumbed” in the 1980s and 1990s and are newer than those in other parts of the city.
But because the pipes do “apparently have a lot
of sediment that needs to get out,” the DWP will be doing “an aggressive flushing program,” he said.
According to Adams, when the city’s water pipes were unlined, the utility did regular flushing to remove cloudiness.
South Los Angeles residents will be notified with door hangers before their block is being flushed, because the process will likely lead to cloudy water, Adams said.
Despite the unappetizing appearance of the cloudy water, it is safe enough to drink, Adams told City News Service.
South Los Angeles’ issues with cloudy water appear to be unrelated to a January chlorine pump malfunction at a water treatment plant that originally prompted Harris-Dawson to request a DWP report to the council.
The pump failure allowed water that had not been fully disinfected to flow into the drinking water supply of the South Los Angeles neighborhoods of Green Meadows and Watts.
The failure occurred at the 99th Street Wells Water Treatment Facilityat about 9 p.m. Jan. 15, but an automated alarm wasn’t noticed by a plant operator at a remote control site until later, leading to a delay in fixing the problem. The pump failure lasted until 3 the next morning, which meant water that had not been chlorinated was distributed to customers for about six hours.
DWP officials also did not formally notify the public of the malfunction until April 22, and the notification only occurred because the incident was cited as a “technical violation” by the State Water Resources Control Board Division of Drinking Water.
The state cited the DWP because repairs must be done within four hours, and it took six hours instead, DWP officials said.
DWP officials noted the automated alarm went off in the midst of a shift change, and the employee coming on duty failed to notice the alert.
Adams told the council today that DWP management, those who are “up the chain,” were not informed of the pump failure, and only discovered it about a month later while conducting a monthly audit of water quality.
The problem should have been reported at a morning meeting and sent to higher-ups at DWP, which was “not typical and not acceptable,” he said.