Lawsuit Has Been Filed over Hyperion July Spill

The headwaters at the Hyperion were flooded because of a back up of trash. The sewage spill caused flooding at more than 50% of the facility. (Photo courtesy LA Sanitation & Environment)

A class-action lawsuit was filed January 4, alleging negligence by the Los Angeles Department of Sanitation that led to the massive sewage spill at the Hyperion Water Treatment plant in July.

The suit, filed by Parris Law Firm and Bloom Injury Law, places blame on workers in the Hyperion plant and the manufacturer of the screens that were designed to filter debris.

Alexander Wheeler of Parris Law told the L.A. Daily News that “Our allegations are that L.A. Sanitation was negligent and they had faulty operations . . . .There were multiple warning signs, multiple alarm bells that went off that should have alerted L.A. Sanitation to an impending disaster and that’s exactly what happened.”

In July, Circling the News reported that “when water started backing up in the headwaters of the Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant on July 11, back-up systems went into operation, according to public spokesperson Elena Stern, but it wasn’t enough.

“‘There was more debris than we’ve ever seen before,’ Stern told CTN by phone on August 2.

“As reported on July 30 in the L.A. Times (“Damaged Hyperion Plant Is Releasing Partially Treated Sewage into Santa Monica Bay”), ‘The surge of wastewater sent workers fleeing for their lives and has left the plant in a damaged state.’

“‘It was a major event,’ Stern said, noting that even though about half of the 200-acre plant had flooded with wastewater, ‘back-up systems were in place; the facility never fully shut down.’”

CTN asked for a reason for the failure and Stern said it was still under investigation.

In August, CTN spoke to engineers, who provided questions that were sent to Stern on August 5.

  1. How many of the eight headwater systems were online? Typically, three or four run at a time and there should have been back up.
  2. If the systems fail, an alarm signal is automatically sent to the control room. Was there an operator in the control room when there was a failure?
  3. If there was an operator, did the rising level cause an alarm to go off?  If the alarm didn’t go off, was there a power failure? If there was a temporary outage, did the generator come on? Is the generator tested annually and was it working?
  4. When was the last time maintenance was done on the headwater system?
  5. When was the last time the “highwater level control system” was checked?

Stern responded the same day to CTN, “This is information that we are currently gathering for the Regional Water Quality Board and can’t get to you until it is completed. You can wait till we provide it to them or you can CPRA but either way, we don’t have it yet.”

City Gate, a third-party company hired to investigate the wastewater spill at Hyperion, released a final report on October 1.

The report detailed information about best practices to follow if another emergency response were to take place. However, it failed to determine why the spill took place and how to prevent a future “near catastrophic event” from happening again.

Stern says the agency does not comment on pending litigation.

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