In a city known for its glamour, talk of sewage may seem inapt, but it is also essential to understanding Los Angeles, because each day "6,700 miles of sewers convey 450 million gallons of wastewater . . . from more than four million people to four treatment plants."
"Brown Acres: An Intimate History of the Los Angeles Sewer System" by Anna Sklar (Angel City Press: 232 pp., $19.95 paper) takes an unprecedented look at what lies beneath the sprawling 465.9-square-mile city, which for decades dumped its untreated sewage into the ocean. With details (and photographs) gleaned from meticulous research in the city's archives, Sklar relates the extreme difficulties the city faced in building a sewer infrastructure to handle its rapidly expanding population in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.