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SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA / A news summary | The Local Review

Group Sues City, Citing Failures of Sewer Pipes

November 10, 1998

LOS ANGELES — An environmental group sued the city Monday for allegedly failing to properly maintain sewage pipelines that have spilled over in Los Angeles neighborhoods.

Santa Monica Baykeepers filed the suit in federal court under the Clean Water Act, saying the group seeks to force the city to repair some of the oldest pipes, which during a storm last February spilled about 1,000 gallons of raw sewage into a street near Manual Arts High School.

"In the city of Los Angeles, when it rains, it pours," said Terry Tamminen, director of the Marina del Rey-based group. "Sadly, it pours raw sewage."

Judy Wilson, director of the Bureau of Sanitation, said that she had not yet read the lawsuit, but that the city is doing an "excellent job" of maintaining its 6,500 miles of sewer lines although some lines are 70 years old.

"We have a very aggressive system of monitoring our sewers," said Wilson.

Wilson said she will recommend today to the City Council to vote in favor of the $250-million East-West Sewer Project, which would replace the sewer system in South-Central by 2003. Later, a related north-south project should be completed, she said.

The suit seeks damages of $539 million and immediate attention to the problem.

Tamminen said that even if the City Council approves construction of the sewer lines for South-Central, "it would not solve the entire problem."

Tamminen said he wants the city to fix the city's sewer system within 10 years, so that no sewage goes into the city's storm drains. He said sewage that flows into the drains ends up in Ballona Creek and the bay, where it affects swimming, fishing and other recreational activities.

During last year's storms, South-Central neighborhoods were hit with sewage spills, which caused foul odors and other problems for residents. Wilson has acknowledged that during the El Nino storms, city sewers spilled 3.7 million gallons of sewage into the streets of South-Central. Tamminen said that among other problem spots, 15.7 million gallons of sewage overflowed in Eagle Rock.

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