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Council Extends Self-Certification, Deadline on Water-Saving Devices

Times Staff Writer

In what opponents called a blow to efforts to save water and relieve pressure on the city’s beleaguered sewer system, the Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday voted to allow owners of thousands of small apartment buildings to self-certify that they have installed water-saving devices.

In a separate action, the council voted to extend a Thursday deadline until Jan. 13 on the requirement that property owners install low-flow shower heads and toilet tank devices to cut water usage.

Those not in compliance after the new deadline will be subject to a 10% surcharge on their water bills, beginning in April.

The council votes come more than five months after the city imposed a law at Mayor Tom Bradley’s urging for the dual purposes of conserving water during the drought and also to curb the amount of waste water that winds up in the sewer system. Among the prohibited water uses are the hosing off of driveways, patios and sidewalks.

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Bradley made the proposals after it became apparent that by 1992 the sewer system would reach its capacity of 460 million gallons per day. When the emergency measures were imposed, the waste water flow into the system--representing about 90% of the content of the system--was about 400 million gallons per day.

Tuesday’s action affecting apartment buildings of 10 or fewer units was sought by Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky after a committee action recommended that only single-family homes, duplexes, condominiums and small commercial properties be allowed to declare themselves in compliance with the water-saving effort.

Yaroslavsky argued that many senior citizens in his district who live in apartment buildings they also own should be trusted--just as homeowners--to self-certify that they have installed the water-saving toilet tank and shower devices. Without the ability to self-certify, Yaroslavsky said, owners of smaller apartments would be forced to pay potentially exorbitant fees to have a plumber or some other third party sign a declaration that the retrofitting had occurred.

“I don’t think it was the intent of this ordinance . . . to make a bunch of plumbers rich or create a full employment act for certifiers,” Yaroslavsky said.

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Yaroslavsky’s proposal to exempt what officials estimated as nearly half of the more than 605,000 apartment units from requirements that an outside party confirm that the devices are installed was approved on a 10-4 vote.

After the council action, Deputy Mayor Michael Gage called the action “inappropriate.” Gage, saying he was speaking for himself and not Bradley, said the apartment building exemption could mean that about 5 million gallons of water per day that would have been saved will now be flushed or drained into the sewer system.

Officials have estimated that if all property owners in the city installed the toilet tank and shower devices, as much as 40 million gallons of water would be saved every day.

In an effort to prevent price gouging, the council imposed a $25 cap on the amount anyone can charge to certify a home or other building for the water-saving devices at the time a property changes hands.


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