Los Angeles Collection System Agreement: a Win-Win Partnership & Success Story

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ABSTRACT

During February 1998, the wettest February in Los Angeles’ history, sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs) occurred in a number of communities with the majority occurring in the Eagle Rock and South Los Angeles areas. In response to these SSOs, the Santa Monica Baykeeper (BayKeeper) filed a Federal lawsuit against the City asking for injunctive relief due to the SSOs. In January 2001, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board (LARWQCB) and a number of community groups representing residents in South Los Angeles joined the BayKeeper in its lawsuit against the City. The plaintiffs argued that the City’s SSOs and odor problems violated the Clean Water Act and the terms and conditions of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permits for the Hyperion and the Terminal Island Treatment Plants for the operation and maintenance of the City’s sewer system.

This paper will discuss the process in which the parties were able to work collaboratively together and reach a win-win agreement that is manageable by the City and meets the objectives of reducing SSOs and protecting the environment. A great trust and partnership evolved out of this process. In addition, this paper will discuss the various elements of the agreement that is an example of an effective collection system management program. This paper will also highlight the community outreach that led to the community's support to the agreement and the necessary investment in the infrastructure. The paper will discuss the City’s success in securing a 5-year rate increase to support the investments, which also lead to an enhanced bond rating.

This paper will give specific results on performance levels with focus on sewer condition assessment, sewer cleaning, sewer planning, sewer rehabilitation and grease control. In addition the paper will show the results associated with spill reduction. SSOs are steadily declining. The overall SSOs in Fiscal Year (FY) 2005-06 were approximately 70 percent less than those of the baseline FY of 2000-01. It is noteworthy that spills continued to decline even with the City’s recent second wettest season on record. Over the last two years, as a result of a focused chemical root control and sewer cleaning activities, root-caused SSOs have been reduced by 53 percent. SSOs caused by fats, oils, and grease (FOG) were reduced by 79 percent since the inception of the FOG control program in Fiscal Year 2000-01.

This paper can be used by other agencies to build an effective sewer management system, to address sewers overflows and to effectively resolve enforcement and litigation. More sewers are being repaired. New sewers are being built. More sewers are being cleaned and inspected. New and state-of-the-art odor control facilities are being built. Overflows and odors continue to be on a steady decline. As a result of these efforts, our neighborhoods and the environment are getting healthier and safer.

The City of Los Angeles (City) operates and maintains more than 6,500 miles of sewers ranging in size from 6-inches to 150-inches in diameter. The City serves an area of over 550 square miles and 29 contract agencies conveying and treating about 550 MGD.

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