May 1, 2012 - From the May, 2012 issue

Clean Water Projects Making Our Communities Clean and Sustainable

Adel Hagekhalil, Assistant Director of the City of Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation, provides MIR with a third article in a series of essays on clean water projects in Los Angeles. A  $3.8 million underground stormwater system in Highland Park, the Garvanza Park Rainwater Irrigation Project, features a series of underground tanks that collect and clean rainwater to be used for irrigation. Another, the  North Atwater Creek Restoration and Park Expansion project, will filter water that generally is diverted into the LA River. Both projects represent the City of Los Angeles’ commitment to pursuing a clean water, ecological infrastructure for the region.

"The completion of these projects is not the end but rather a step in the pursuit of an ever-higher quality of life for our communities and residents." -Adel Hagekhalil

Every time in rains in Los Angeles, we are reminded of a great challenge and an opportunity we have. It is a challenge because of the all the flooding and pollution that rain and runoff carries from our paved street and communities. It is an opportunity because it shows how much water we have here locally if it is managed and harnessed efficiently. So just remember that for our great city to become Clean, Green and Sustainable, we need to do our part in preventing trash and waste from accumulating in our streets and in implementing ways to reduce runoff, harvest rain locally, and increase infiltration starting from our homes, businesses, and our neighborhoods.

Under the leadership of the Mayor and City Council and in partnership with the community, Los Angeles is implementing great multibenifit projects across the City that are cleaning our runoff, greening our neighborhoods, recharging water into the aquifer, and reducing our dependence on potable and imported water. Today, I will highlight two model projects that were recently completed in Northeast Los Angeles. One is in North Atwater, and the other in Highland Park.

On March 15, 2012, Councilmember José Huizar, the new chair of the Council’s Energy and Environment Committee, and Garvanza and Highland Park community members joined city officials and students from the neighborhood to celebrate the completion of stormwater infrastructure and park enhancements at Garvanza Park. The greenspace was reopened after being partially closed since March 2010 as the City in partnership with North East Trees installed two underground stormwater facilities, a new irrigation system, 12 new trees, drought-tolerant grass, and new exercise equipment.

The constructed $3.8 million underground stormwater system at Garvanza Park Rainwater Irrigation Project takes runoff from the Avenue 63 storm drain, cleanses it of trash, oil and other pollutants, and stores it in two detention tanks with a combined capacity of 1 million gallons per rain event. This tank can supply water for 112 families of 3-4 each for one year.

Stormwater in one tank will be used to irrigate Garvanza Park from a sub surface drip system. The other tank will infiltrate water into the ground to recharge the water table. This project collects stormwater from an 85-acre subwatershed that feeds into an existing storm drain along Avenue 63 across from the park.  A diversion structure directs flow through a CDS unit (using continuous deflective separation technology, the CDS system effectively screens, separates, and traps debris, sediment, and oil and grease from stormwater runoff), a sedimentation basin, a retention basin, and infiltration basin and pump system. The retention basin captures water for a subsurface irrigation system (not sprinklers) at Garvanza Park. Water in the infiltration system will percolate stormwater into the ground for groundwater recharge. Drought tolerant grass (Buffalo grass) was also used to reduce the need for irrigation water. 

This stormwater capture and cleansing system is the first of its kind in the northeast area and will help the city achieve water quality goals for the Arroyo Seco and the Los Angeles River.  The project achieves three main things: it promotes clean water by preventing urban runoff from flowing into the Arroyo Seco and the Los Angeles River; it saves potable water by providing alternate irrigation source for the park; and it replenishes our precious water resource in the groundwater. It truly is multibeneficial!

On April 12th, a cloudy and rainy day, in the North Atwater Community along the banks of the Los Angeles River, another clean water project was completed. Los Angeles City Councilmembers Tom LaBonge and Eric Garcetti, with students and community members, led the celebration that marked the completion of the North Atwater Creek Restoration and Park Expansion project. A much-needed improvement in the Glendale Narrows area of the Los Angeles River, the North Atwater Park project provides multiple benefits to the city’s major tributary as well as to the community. The project will keep the LA River clean and healthy; help the city achieve its clean water objectives for the river and ocean; provide additional wildlife habitat; and promote healthy living through recreational opportunities by the major waterway. The new green space sets the tone for all other anticipated improvements up and down the LA River as part of its revitalization as envisioned by the LA River Revitalization plan championed by Councilman Ed Reyes. The $4-million project regarded an 800-foot narrow open channel, reshaped it, and removed invasive plant species to improve water flow.

Structural stormwater best management practices including a trash removal device andnative vegetation were implemented to improve the quality of water draining from the 60-acre sub watershed out to the LA River. It also added a three-acre green space to the existing North Atwater Park, highlighted by permeable pavers in the parking lot, decorative fencing, a new picnic area, and an outdoor classroom.

The following are more details about the system and the project:

• A Trashmaster unit intercepts all trash before the stormwater runoff enters North Atwater Creek.

• The runoff is slowed through a series of boulders and weirs in the meandering creek that aerate the water and reduce bacteria levels, sediment loads, and total suspended solids.


• The runoff is treated naturally through a wetland. Native wetland plants remove bacteria. 

• Runoff from the equestrian facility is intercepted and conveyed by a pipe to a point approximately 400 feet upstream from the downstream end of the creek.  

• The runoff is treated naturally through the creek and wetland. Native wetland plants remove nutrients produced by the adjacent equestrian facilities.

• Vegetated swales, absorption pits, and manure disposal management also reduce the amount of equestrian-related pollutants.

• Permeable pavers have been installed in the parking lot. 

• Parking lot runoff flows towards the creek and wetland for treatment.

The North Atwater Creek Restoration and Park Expansion help achieve the city’s water quality goals for its bodies of water. This project will mitigate trash and bacteria from urban runoff from the North Atwater sub watershed that flows through the North Atwater creek and directly out to the river. 

These clean water projects affirms the City’s commitment to clean water and healthy waterways in our great city.   Through the support of our policymakers and the community, and collaborations with our sister agencies, these environmental projects making our waterways and neighborhoods cleaner and greener.  By leveraging our resources and working in partnership, the opportunities are unlimited and the potential about the future is exciting.  

The completion of these projects is not the end but rather a step in the pursuit of an ever-higher quality of life for our communities and residents.  So let’s join hands, hearts and minds in making Los Angeles, the cleanest and greenest City in America.

My TPR/MIR Restaurant Pick:  On my way back, I stopped for lunch at the Gram and Papa’s restaurant at 227 East 9th Street near Los Angeles Street in Downtown Los Angeles.  G&P is a new food hotspot.  Try their turkey chili soup and their chicken greek salad. Yum!  


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