Schade responds to LADWP

In recent days, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power issued a press release to complain about having to clean up the Owens Dry

schade

APCD Director Ted Schade said of LADWP, "They are ignoring previous hard-fought agreements and they are breaking promises. The current LADWP leadership has drawn a line in the dust and is refusing to meet its obligations."

Lake dust, the worst pollution source of its kind in the Western Hemisphere.  LA water diversions created the dusty lake bed.  Although LADWP agreed to a systematic plan to clean up the hazard, now officials don’t want to finish the clean up.  The LA press release indicates they don’t want to spend any more money.  The following is Great Basin Air Pollution Control District Director Ted Schade’s response:

Why won’t LADWP finish cleaning up our air?

By Theodore D. Schade

Why is the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) not living up to the promises it made to the Owens Valley? In a recent press release, LADWP sings its own praises, yet makes excuses as to why it should not have to finish the job of controlling the dust caused by its water diversions from Owens Lake—the largest single source of particulate matter (PM) air pollution in the country.
LADWP has controlled the air pollution from 40 square miles of existing lake bed because the law requires it to. LADWP contractors built thousands of acres of infrastructure and LADWP field staff works hard to operate and maintain the controls. Their efforts have led to about a 90 percent reduction in air pollution levels. For this, all Owens Valley residents should be grateful. I am.
The Owens Lake effort is the largest dust control project in the country—it needs to be. Before LADWP started deploying controls in 2000, dust levels were 100 times the federal standard. Even with the current 90 percent reduction, PM levels are still 10 times higher than the standard. And when LADWP finishes the five square miles it is currently working on, dust levels will still be four times higher than the standard. To meet the federal clean air standard, dust levels have to be reduced by 99 percent and some additional areas of controls are required. Until that happens, Owens Valley air-breathers will be subjected to dust levels that are two to four times as high as the highest levels measured in Los Angeles. The work is nearly complete. Why is LADWP now unwilling to finish the job?
The LADWP editorial claims, “suddenly there seems to be no end.” This is not true. There is no “suddenly” and there is an end. In 1988, the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District (Great Basin) estimated that controls would be required on about 46.5 square miles of the dried lake bed. And in 1998, LADWP entered into an agreement with Great Basin and committed to reduce lake bed emissions so that the Owens Valley “will attain and maintain federal air quality standards.” They have known for 24 years how much of the lake bed would require controls and they have known for 14 years that the “the end” comes when they meet the clean air standards.
LADWP claims that “Great Basin has a responsibility to develop new dust control methodologies, but has not done so.” In the 1990s, Great Basin did develop the three currently-approved methods to control dust (water, vegetation and gravel). However, air quality regulators have no obligation to develop air pollution controls for air polluters. If the LADWP is unsatisfied with the current approved controls, they have a responsibility to their ratepayers to develop new, effective controls. It is Great Basin’s responsibility to review and approve successful controls.
Yet another of LADWP’s concerns regards “the methodology and accuracy of dust measurements.” The methods used by Great Basin to monitor PM emissions are the most sophisticated methods ever developed for such monitoring. LADWP does not mention that these methods were painstakingly developed with their input or that they signed an agreement that the methods are valid and reasonable. These agreed-upon methods now show that controls are required on an additional 2.9 square miles of dried lake bed. Why is LADWP going back on its promise to rely on these methods?
LADWP states that, at over $1 billion, the cost for dust control has been high. But, the amount of air pollution caused by their water diversions is enormous. Objectively looking at the cost of controls versus the amount of pollution controlled, the cost is reasonable. Over a 25-year period, the cost of controlling Owens Lake air pollution is estimated to be about $1,000 per ton. The South Coast AQMD (where Los Angeles is located) has set a feasible cost effectiveness limit of $5,300 per ton for PM control in its area. If Owens Lake were located in the San Fernando Valley, instead of the Owens Valley, LADWP would be expected to spend up to $5 billion to control the problem.
LADWP states, “We are not suggesting that we back away from these obligations.” But, this is exactly what they have done. They are ignoring previous hard-fought agreements and they are breaking promises. The current LADWP leadership has drawn a line in the dust and is refusing to meet its obligations.
At a recent Great Basin Board meeting, Board Chair and Mono Supervisor Larry Johnston asked LADWP General Manager Ron Nichols why they spend money on legal fees when it could be spent on dust mitigation. Mr. Nichols said, “The cost of legal fees pale in comparison to the cost of dust controls.”
And that is the problem, a historic problem LADWP has with its credibility in keeping promises. LADWP’s actions impact the residents of our communities—our parents and children, healthy and sick, the people the District is charged by law to protect. Its actions also impact our environment—our air is still 10 times more polluted than allowed by law. Rather than spend their resources to complete the job of controlling their pollution and protecting the public and the environment, it seems that LADWP’s leaders would rather pay attorneys to fight their battles.
Great Basin is convinced there is a middle ground where most of both sides’ needs can be met. We encourage City of Los Angeles leaders to engage in this conversation. The air pollution control at Owens Lake should be something we are all proud of, not something attorneys fight over.

February 28, 2012

(Ted Schade is the Air Pollution Control Officer for the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District and has worked on solving the air pollution problem at Owens Lake for the last 22 years.)

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Pat Rowbottom
Pat Rowbottom
10 years ago

Valkyrie (above) states assessment of LADWP exactly. Bennet needs to have the Inyo Register subscribe to her research and Inyo County Supervisors had BETTER quit enabling LADWP!

Durrell Coleman
Durrell Coleman
10 years ago

When I give people a short explanation of the situation at Owens Lake, I say that the LADWP has controlled most of the dusty areas, but they have to keep going until the National Air Quality Standard is met. This is the spirit of the 1998 SIP and the 2008… Read more »

Ted Schade
Ted Schade
10 years ago

Just stand with me.

Valkyrie
Valkyrie
10 years ago

It appears that DWP is launching a new offensive on all fronts to beat down the opposition, a tactic that has generally worked well through the last hundred years of occupation. The timing is superb – sue the State when economic chaos reigns in Sacramento, attack water rights in Mammoth… Read more »

Steve
Steve
10 years ago

Once upon a time, the residents in the Owens Valley took care of business at the Lone Pine spillway. I wonder if history will repeat itself.

Chris
Chris
10 years ago

Excellent response, Mr. Schade. You laid it out and said it the way it is. LADWP doesn’t want to meet its obligations, doesn’t care about the health of people in the OV, and doesn’t understand the hard fought agreements because it drags its feet working on these projects so long… Read more »

Ted Schade
Ted Schade
10 years ago
Reply to  Chris

It is my pleasure. What I need is the strong support of the public.

Michael Prather
Michael Prather
10 years ago

There is a recognizable pattern of behavior by LADWP that is taking us back to the bad old days I worry. They are resisting their mandate to clear the air at Owens Lake, they are fighting Inyo County’s efforts to defend the damaged vegetation in the Blackrock well field, DWP… Read more »

Ken Warner
Ken Warner
10 years ago

There’s no pattern to recognize. It’s what they are. They are mean to the bone.

Lisa Schade
Lisa Schade
10 years ago

Very well said! Glad you’re protecting the air we all breathe.

ana
ana
10 years ago

And this is why it matters. It isn’t just aesthetics, although that aspect is also important for those of us who live here: http://www.epa.gov/pm/health.html Also, I’m sure most are aware that the Owens Lake dust is its own unique special toxic mix. Kudos to LA DWP for the work they… Read more »

Airman
Airman
10 years ago
Reply to  ana

Ana,
Do you actually have any statistical data on the incidence of lung disease and illnesses in Inyo County? Or are you just making an assumption?

Michael Prather
Michael Prather
10 years ago
Reply to  Airman

The sample size for health hazards around Owens Lake is too small. We do have anecdotal reports from ER rooms in Lone Pine and Ridgecrest where people with respiratory challenges such as asthma and emphysema come in during major dust events. We know the harmful effects of small particles on… Read more »

Ted Schade
Ted Schade
10 years ago

I couldn’t have said it any better. PM-10 is bad for you wherever you live. The state of California has established that particulate air pollution is “among the most harmful of all air pollutants.” (www.arb.ca.gov/html/brochure/pm10.htm)

ana
ana
10 years ago
Reply to  Airman

No data…just empirical observations made over years living in close proximity to the Lake dust and first and second hand knowledge of those that suffer with lung diseases of various types. That is why I would hope that somebody a lot smarter than I am would pursue this. I don’t… Read more »

Valkyrie
Valkyrie
10 years ago
Reply to  ana

Why don’t you contact the CDC to see if they are interested? Though the statistics are small, it is possible that there has been a spike of unusual lung disorders in people raised or living in the area of dust impact. I wonder if persons with dust-related lung disorders, and… Read more »

Trouble
Trouble
10 years ago
Reply to  ana

Ana your good!

inyoindian
inyoindian
10 years ago
Reply to  ana

how can anybody question negative affects of groundwater pumping and owens dry lake dust. @ Ana and Michael, I agree 100 %. You have me on board!

Airman
Airman
10 years ago
Reply to  ana

Ana, Great Basin APCD has characterized the composition of the dust from Owens Lake, it is not a mysterious “unique toxic mix” perhaps Mr. Schade would provide the information to Bennet Kessler. I believe the dust is primarily mineral in nature, primarily Sodium salts and fine clay particles. The salts… Read more »

Ted Schade
Ted Schade
10 years ago
Reply to  Airman

Yes, we do know what is in the dust. In addition to inert minerals (clays) and a cocktail of salts, the dust has elevated levels of arsenic, cadmium and nickel. The arsenic is of particular concern because the residents of Keeler suffer with high levels of arsenic in their water.… Read more »