Brown Tap Water at 5 South L.A. Schools Sparks Concern

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Cloudy, brown water coming out of the taps at five elementary schools in South Los Angeles has raised safety concerns for officials.

People have complained about the tap water conditions for weeks, and at some point 96th Street, Grape Street, Compton Avenue, Joyner and Flournoy elementary schools were only using bottled water.

In a statement released Wednesday, the Los Angeles Unified School District said the district's Office of Environmental Health and Safety has been in contact with the L.A. Department of Water and Power about the matter.

The office did investigate complaints about discolored water at the schools, and found the water was "adequately chlorinated" and didn't show any bacteria.

While Grape Street Elementary has decided to use bottled water as a precaution, no other school is at this point and water service to the schools has not been disrupted, according to LAUSD.

A sample of water taken from Grape Street by KTLA on Wednesday was brown.

“The safety of our students is always the district’s top priority, and we will continue to monitor this situation to ensure the highest quality of water is supplied to our schools,” the statement reads.

The matter was brought up during a Los Angeles City Council meeting Tuesday, and Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson said he hoped to get an explanation of what was behind the cloudy water.

Marty Adams, assistant general manager for the DWP,  said a chlorine pump failure at the 99th Street wells back in January caused  water to go into the system without being disinfected. Sediment in the water might also be causing it to have the cloudy color.

Adams says he’s not sure what the source of the sediment is, but that complaints started coming in from Watts in February, after a fire hydrant in the area broke.

During the City Council meeting, Adams said that DWP is doing everything it can to flush the pipes in the area. He added that the tap water is safe to drink.

“We will flush all the sediments out and we’re not going to stop until the problem is resolved,” Adams said.

Residents spoke to KTLA about water quality problems that have been taking place in the area for years. Some residents complained that the DWP only notified them with a letter of the chlorine pump problem in April, even though it actually happened in January.

"They had to know this had been going on for a long time. Everyone's been complaining about this," said resident Kim Catchings. "It just hurts me so bad that our kids are drinking bad water."

Those who live in the area said their homes have been affected too.

"Some days it can be clear, some days it can be brown, some days it may be a little black. It can be all different colors," said Watts resident Richard Marshall. "We don't drink the water out of the faucet. I don't even cook with water out of the faucet."

A flushing operation to improve water quality in the area was underway Wednesday. The effort could take up to a month, DWP officials said.

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