Project Helps Clean Water Runoff from La Brea Tar Pits - NBC Southern California

Project Helps Clean Water Runoff from La Brea Tar Pits

LA's board of supervisors voted to allocate $2 million to create the system



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    File Photo: La Brea Tar Pits

    The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has approved the construction of a new system that will help purify water runoff from the La Brea Tar Pits into the storm drains.

    There are temporary systems in place to separate oil from the tar pits from the water at a lake on Wilshire Boulevard in front of the Page Museum. Yet in times of major rains, these systems cannot handle all the water.

    Last week, the board of supervisors voted to allocate $2 million to create a permanent solution in cleaning the water.

    “This (money) will come from funds set aside in the budget in the Capital Project,” said Kerjon Lee, an LA County Public Works spokesman.

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    Lee said a temporary fix has been in place to address water runoff that has happened since 2006.

    The system included six above-ground pumps that would collect and retain water over a period of time, and as needed, the county would empty the batch and purify it, according to Lee.

    The new system will include an underground vault where water is collected then travels through a clarifier that will remove minerals and other impurities.

    Lee said the pipeline will be directly connected from the campus of the museum and will continue into the sanitary sewer system.

    Asphalt and oil is a reoccurring issue in the Hancock Park area, not just at the La Brea Tar Pits, according to Lee.

    “We have water quality measures in the drain systems,” Lee said.

    One such measure includes the oil absorbent boom which acts “like a sock that lines the bottom of the storm drains and absorbs the oil, according to Lee.

    He said the new underground pipeline will be completed by next spring. The Department of Public Works assisted with the temporary system and will be creating and installing the new one.

    An area that is sometimes affected by contaminants in the water is Ballona Creek, which travels through the Los Angeles Basin.

    Jim Lamm, president of the Ballona Creek Renaissance, a non-profit organization working towards renewing the creek, said there is a big increase of water pollutants during the winter storm season.

    Lamm said this new system will be “significant” in helping to keep the pollutants separate from the water.

    He said that at a recent cleanup of the creek after a day of rain, an oil slick was spotted by a volunteer.

    “Most of the time, what we are seeing is trash, which is sometimes laden with other pollutants,” Lamm said. “I was never specifically aware of the oil (from the tar pits) going into the creek.”

    There have been three oil spills into the creek in the last 10 years, according to Lamm.

    The cities of LA County all have mandates to comply with and this new filtration system will add to the efforts, he said.

    Lamm said there is a “trash net” that catches material before entering the ocean, but the net is not the solution.

    “People are dismissing (the new system),” Lamm said. “But before people came, the tar pits were there and it was not as beseeched as it is now.”

    Lamm said when it comes to clean water “every little bit helps.” 

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