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L.A. County supervisors give up custom water bottles

April 09, 2009|Garrett Therolf

Los Angeles County supervisors gave up their bottled water this week -- trading individual plastic bottles emblazoned with the county seal for paper cups and old-fashioned carafes filled with iced tap water.

The move came a week after The Times reported that a student worker peeled the labels off individual water bottles, used a computer to print out custom labels and slapped them on. County officials said it took the worker, who earns $9.92 an hour for a range of duties, only a minute to complete the task.

The relabeling of the bottles for the supervisors' weekly board meetings had been going on for years.

Aides to the supervisors said the special water was needed to avoid giving free advertising to the original bottler on public-access television broadcasts.

But that struck many people as fiscally wasteful, environmentally unfriendly and politically tone deaf.

Workers in some county buildings complained that they did not even have a working drinking fountain.

And others pointed out that supervisors have ordered cuts in recent months that ended bottled water perks for other county workers.

The revelation that supervisors were drinking from customized water bottles at taxpayer expense particularly irritated workers at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance, who were told last month that deteriorating finances countywide meant an end to their purified water supply -- which had been delivered to the hospital in 3- and 5-gallon containers.

In a memo, the hospital's chief executive, Miguel Ortiz-Marroquin, expressed regret about the cutback but appealed for understanding from his staff. He pointed out that stopping delivery of the water was a way to cut costs without affecting patient care.

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garrett.therolf@latimes.com

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