Sewage Odors Still Plague Homes in Pacific Palisades

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A sewer snafu continues to engulf a few Pacific Palisades households in putrid smells, forcing them out of their homes amid health concerns.

And for the fourth attempt in six months, the city of Los Angeles is promising to finally solve the foul problem.

Residents, however, are not optimistic.

"It's been really horrible," said Susan Kudo, who left her home in April because she could no longer bear the rotten egg odors coming from her sink and shower drains. She feared for her health and that of her 11-year-old son.

"I just keep trying to have faith and move forward. It's not easy."

Kudo originally took refuge in Sheridan, Ore., with friends for a month while the Department of Public Works promised to permanently solve the problem. Recently, she and residents of two neighboring Pacific Palisades houses at the Mantua Road cul-de-sac have stayed with relatives or, at city expense, at hotels.

The sewer gasses still linger in and around the homes.

Last fall, residents learned that the cause was a 1997 sewer improvement project that cost $14 million. A new main sewer line, known as a force main, was installed along Pacific Coast Highway, and workers hoped to improve efficiency by rerouting some home sewage lines from a series of small pumping stations to it.

But Kudo's house and that of her neighbors, Alan and Terry Morelli, were flooded with the stench of sewage gases whenever a nearby pumping station kicked in--sometimes every 20 minutes, sometimes once every six hours. Another Mantua Road resident was caught in the noxious cross-fire from both homes.

In April, the city department's Bureau of Waste Management thought it had solved the problem. "Basically, we rerouted everything back to its original state as best we could," said Jim Langley, assistant director for the Bureau of Sanitation. "There's a vast improvement."

Now there's yet another glitch. A connecting sewage line near Pacific Coast Highway has a 90 degree angle, which causes pressure in the line to back up. It will have to be replaced.

The latest repair attempt should take about two weeks, officials said.

"Back in April, they told us it would take two weeks--here it is June," said Alan Morelli, who is living with his wife and 1-year-old son in a Santa Monica hotel. "I can't tell you how disappointed we are."

During the first repair in December, workers installed vents on the Morellis' and Kudo's properties. The odors lessened but continued. The pressurized gas was forced out of a nearby manhole, which they could still smell.

In January, the city stopped up the manhole leak, which again sent the gases full force back into the two homes.

Meanwhile, there is legal wrangling over testing the homes for toxicity.

City officials insist that the odors are harmless and that potentially hazardous hydrogen sulfide and other gasses are at virtually undetectable levels.

"I don't want to belittle the annoyance they've had to put up with," said L.A. Deputy City Atty. Keith Pritsker. "But on the other hand, nobody's been hospitalized."

However, Barry Groveman, a lawyer for the residents, said more thorough testing should be done.

In what Pritsker calls a "political decision," the city will do more extensive testing "to allay the concerns of the residents," he said. That is expected to start within a week or so.

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