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La Brea Tar Pits Not Responsible for Ballona Pollution After All

There is drama unfolding at the La Brea Tar Pits Lake Pit, and no, it's not the drama involving a fake mother mammoth getting sucked in to the pit while fake horrified child and father mammoth look on. Apparently, recent articles have twisted the story of a $2 million plan to build a permanent underground system for removing tar from the museum site--LA County (which owns the Page Museum site that is home to the La Brea Tar Pits) committed the money last month. In 2006, it became apparent that petroleum was overflowing into storm drains and sometimes popping up in people's backyards, particularly during storm season, according to the Huffington Post. So that year the County put in a temporary, above-ground oil and water separator that sends tar from the museum to the sanitary sewer system owned and operated by the city of Los Angeles (the sanitary sewer is a different system than the stormwater runoff system). The new system will be permanent and underground. The problem is that a recent LA Times article implies that the Tar Pits were recently discovered to be the source of the perennial oil slick on nearby Ballona Creek, a piece of the stormwater runoff system that the museum's oil and water separator is supposed to protect.

From the LAT: "It turns out the tourist attraction and preferred field trip destination of seemingly every grade schooler in the region has sent oily wastewater spilling into the highly polluted creek." The LAT and the Huffington Post then go on to conclude that the Ballona pollution is behind the new $2 million filtration system.

But LA Creek Freak undresses that notion: "Folks, that sheen is there year-round, I find it hard to believe that seasonal overflow is dribbling out all year round." And today, Kerjon Lee, spokesperson for the LA County Department of Public Works, told Curbed that any implication that the Tar Pits are the source of Ballona Creek's pollution problem is misleading: "DPW is confident that the measures in place right now prevent runoff into the storm drain system." Lee explains that the new capital investment is meant to improve on a temporary fix that was never meant to be permanent, not because the system is polluting Ballona Creek.

The DPW has implemented "best management practices" (such as water absorbent booms) throughout the watershed that feeds Ballona Creek, but the oil slick there persists. Image via notaboutwill
· The Inner Workings of the La Brea Tar Pits Lake Pit [Curbed LA]
· La Brea Tar Pits $2 Million Pipeline Solution To Petroleum Runoff To Ocean [Huffington Post]
· Water pollution traced to La Brea Tar Pits [LA Times]
· Going bonkers over the brea in Ballona [LA Creek Freak]

La Brea Tar Pits

5801 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90036