Sanitation workers will install new pipes along Via Marina, Pacific Avenue and Vista del Mar as back up for the area’s 54-year-old sewer main

City sanitation workers will build a new sewer line through Marina del Rey (purple) to support the deteriorating Venice Force Main (red) Image courtesy of the L.A. Bureau of Sanitation

City sanitation workers will build a new sewer line through Marina del Rey (purple) to support the deteriorating Venice Force Main (red)
Image courtesy of the L.A. Bureau of Sanitation

By Gary Walker

There have been three water main breaks along Sunset Boulevard this year, including the July pipe rupture that gushed millions of gallons onto the UCLA campus — a flood that snarled commutes, damaged property and took workers days to repair.

Now imagine a break along the Venice Force Main, a 48-inch pressurized sewer pipe that traverses the coastline along Marina del Rey and through the Marina Peninsula neighborhood as it carries wastewater from the Venice Pumping Plant on Hurricane Avenue to the Hyperion Treatment Plant in Playa del Rey.

To avoid that potential environmental disaster, the Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation is planning to build a parallel 54-inch sewer line to buttress the aging main line, which was built in 1960 during the initial construction of Marina del Rey.

The supplemental sewer line will begin at the pumping station, cross the Grand Canal, travel east along Marquesas Way, and turn south to follow Via Marina, Pacific Avenue and Vista del Mar — crossing the marina and Ballona Creek channels before meeting an interceptor sewer juncture near Manchester Avenue in Playa del Rey.

Construction is slated to begin in spring and last about 20 months in all. While expected to cause temporary traffic delays, the work is worth it, officials say.

“This sewer system has been in service for over 50 years without any maintenance,” said Tonya Durrell, a spokeswoman for the city’s sanitation bureau. “We wouldn’t want to see anything like [a sewage spill] happen. That’s why we’re working very hard to do the upgrades to the sewer system and the infrastructure along the way.”

After installing the redundancy line, workers plan to take the main line out of operation to “take a close look at it and determine if any repairs are required,” Durrell said. In addition, “a second line will help bolster the sewer system during wetter months.”

Los Angeles Public Works officials joined Durrell for a public information session about the project on Oct. 22. An environmental analysis for the sewer project was completed and certified in 2010.

The Los Angeles City Council approved construction along the Via Marina route in January 2010. Two weeks later, county officials filed a lawsuit against the city, arguing that the construction route should follow heavily traveled Pacific Avenue in Venice rather than pass through county-run Marina del Rey.

A Superior Court judge ruled in the county’s favor in August 2011, but that decision was reversed on appeal in March 2013, allowing the city to proceed with the project.

“The litigation was because the alignment on Via Marina was chosen.  Pacific Avenue is too close to the current line,” said Fernando Gonzalez, the assistant division manager of wastewater engineering services of Public Works. “We want to keep both lines away from each other in case of a natural disaster and so that, in case [the main] fails, the other one is still in service. We maintain that the Via Marina line was the best way to go.”

Julie Ross, a Playa del Rey resident who lives two blocks from the path of the new sewer line, said she’s convinced the project is necessary but hopes officials will take precautions to mitigate the impacts of construction.

“It’s going to be a terrible inconvenience for people down in the western part of town,” she said. “I have a concern that the [environmental study] is so old that it doesn’t contemplate any other developments, such as Legado,” a controversial mixed-use development planned for downtown Playa del Rey near Vista del Mar.

An environmental group recently circulated emails claiming that many if not all of the trees on Via Marina would be “destroyed/killed/eliminated” during sewer line construction.

Durrell said five trees will be removed during construction in County Parking Lot 13 at 4601 Via Marina, “but they will be replaced with as mature as possible trees at the end of construction.”

Some who attended the Oct. 22 briefing expressed disappointment that they were not allowed to weigh in on the project during the gathering. County and city officials said they will take comments from residents during future public hearings for construction permits.