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Worker Suspended 10 Days Over Sewage Spill

November 19, 1987|KEVIN RODERICK | Times Staff Writer

A worker at the Hyperion treatment plant who has been disciplined twice before was suspended Wednesday for causing 600,000 gallons of sewage to spill into Santa Monica Bay last July.

Jeffrey Bobo, a sewage treatment operator on the graveyard shift at the plant near Playa del Rey, was given a 10-day suspension by the Board of Public Works, the arm of Los Angeles city government that oversees sanitation.

Supervisors at Hyperion, in papers filed with the board, blamed Bobo for mishandling a July 17 shutdown of the huge pumps that push treated waste water five miles out to sea. His actions caused 600,000 gallons of treated sewage to be diverted into an overflow pipe that dumped the effluent only a mile from shore, the papers said.

Although the effluent received a dose of chlorine and "secondary treatment," which removes most of the solid fecal material, city officials were alarmed by what the plant's supervisors called an "unnecessary" use of the one-mile pipe.

Bobo was twice suspended--last year and again last May--for sleeping on the job, city records show. The Bureau of Sanitation recommended that Bobo be fired for the latest error, but city personnel officials decided to seek only the suspension after Bobo explained that exposure to chlorine gas had affected his vision and that the graveyard shift July 17 was especially hectic.

Personnel problems have recurred at Hyperion despite a 1985 consultant's report that revealed a history of worker complaints, poor performance and delays in finding qualified employees for openings. The city removed the plant's top officials and replaced them with a consultant from private industry in December, 1985.

City officials have been pleased with special training and other improvements ordered by Don Smith, the private consultant, but worker mistakes have continued to add to sewage spills.

Two Hyperion supervisors were taken off the job last summer after a series of sewage spills were not disclosed to authorities as required by law.

Maureen Kindel, who was then president of the Board of Public Works, said the supervisors were "suspended with pay" and called for a criminal investigation by the district attorney. However, city officials said later the supervisors were assigned other jobs temporarily and are now back in their old jobs at Hyperion. The criminal investigation was dropped.

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