West Edition

Official wants answers regarding pump malfunction at water plant

LOS ANGELES — A city councilman May 3 called for a full report on a January pump malfunction at a water treatment plant that allowed water that had not been fully disinfected to flow into the drinking water supply of two South Los Angeles neighborhoods.

A plant operator at the 99th Street Wells Water Treatment Facility, which serves the Watts and Green Meadows areas, missed an automated alarm that alerted of a failure in a treatment pump, leading to a delay in fixing the problem, according to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

The pump failure lasted from 9 p.m. Jan. 15 until 3 the next morning, which meant water that had not been chlorinated was distributed to customers for about six hours. It wasn’t until about 1 a.m. that the  malfunction was discovered and the repair effort began, according to a DWP statement released last month.

A test of the water found that while it “did not meet the standard for groundwater treatment due to the lapse in treatment, routine bacteriological sampling of the affected area before and after the incident showed no detectable bacteria or other water quality concern,” DWP officials said in the April statement.

DWP spokeswoman Amanda Parsons said this week the automated alarm went off at around 9 p.m., in the midst of a shift change, with the employee going on duty failing to notice the alert. DWP management are “considering disciplinary action on the staff members involved,” she said.

Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson, who represents the Green Meadows neighborhood and parts of Watts, told City News Service he is seeking a “full hearing just to air everything out.” He described the six-hour lapse and other issues related to the incident as “concerning.”

“Whenever there is a breach, you want to make sure you look into it and expose everything that happened or didn’t happen,” he said. “What was the plan? Was there a contingency for this? Was this expected? Was it not expected?”

Harris-Dawson’s motion requests that DWP officials “immediately report to the City Council” on potential health issues, water quality, the “structural integrity” of the water system, and measures taken to prevent malfunctions and set up fail-safes.

The motion also asks DWP officials to discuss ways to “improve immediate communications to the public.”

DWP officials said that because the “treatment lapse” amounted to a “technical violation of water quality regulations,” they were required to notify all customers that receive water from the well facility of the incident.

A letter was sent to 20,000 customers, and action is being taken regarding any employees who were involved in the incident, the DWP statement said.

Parsons said the notification letter was sent out on April 22 and was the first time that customers were officially notified of the January malfunction.

The State Water Resources Control Board Division of Drinking Water cited the DWP because repairs must be done within four hours, and it took six hours instead, she said.