Cloudy Water Causing Big Concerns in Watts

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power insists it's OK to drink tap water from schools, homes and businesses in the Watts area, despite months of complaints about local cloudy water.

"The water is safe to drink. We've been testing, we test weekly. Now we intend to elevate the testing to daily," said Albert Gastelum, LADWP’s director of water quality.

The agency blames sediment buildup from years of well water pumping for the cloudy appearance. LADWP said in a statement that the agency is testing water at Compton, Lovelia Flournoy, Grape Street, Florence Griffith Joyner and 96 Street elementary schools. 

One parent said she wants her son to bring bottled water to school.

"He always brought water bottles on his own. I encourage that," Juanita Owens said of her son's water habits at school.

On April 29, the Office of Environmental Health and Safety investigated complaints from Joyner, Flournoy, Grape and 96th Street elementary schools. Those tests showed the water was "adequately chlorinated, and no bacteria were detected," according to the LADWP statement.

Maintenance and operation staff members flushed plumbing lines over the weekend at each school as a precaution, according to the statement.

"It shouldn't be happening but it is happening, so we know that there is some amount of sediment in the water that's in the pipelines that needs to be removed," Marty Adams, LADWP Director of Water Operations, said.

Some of the first complaints of water issues out of 40 total came after a fire hydrant was knocked out in February, according to the LADWP.

LADWP also says a possible reason for the discoloration could be due to years of not flushing the system -- a practice stopped in the early 2000s for water conservation during the drought.

"The water is actually safe from a biological standpoint -- there is nothing unsafe about drinking it," Adams said.

Activist Tim Watkins of the Watts Labor Community Action Committee said water captured in bottles at the homes of Watts citizens shows how poor the visibility is.

"All of us know better than to drink water that comes out this color," he said. "Even though we're told by DWP that tap water is safe."

Local officials are backing the call for something to be done.

"Nobody here should turn on the spout and get anything other than clean water," said Councilman Margueese Harris-Dawson.

He said he's counting on DWP to tackle the problem.

"We intend to begin a flushing program in the area. Focus on areas of the neighborhood where we have been getting the most calls," he said.

The councilman also advised citizens to stay aware.

"DWP says that the water is safe to drink. We say take a hard look at it. Drink it out of a clear glass so you can see what you're drinking. The cloudiness is intermittent."

DWP said the system flushing will continue for a month. 

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