Shrinking Debs Pond Worries Park Visitors

By Jacqueline Garcia, EGP Staff Writer

What started as a routine maintenance check up at Ernest E. Debs Park in Montecito Heights turned into a worrying issue for area residents and frequent park visitors who noticed a large pond at the park was rapidly losing water, endangering the fish and turtles living there.

The pond is man-made and gets it water through pipes connected to it rather than natural sources.

Former Montecito Heights resident Rosalio Munoz told EGP he started seeing the evaporation back in December and brought it to the attention of local Councilman Gil Cedillo, after getting no response from park staff.

Munoz told EGP he estimated the pond’s water level had dropped about four feet, noting that in addition to being a habitat for aquatic life, the pond also serves as an important water source in the event of a fire.

“I was told by a workman on clean up duty that a pipe had broken and I became alarmed,” he wrote in his letter dated Dec. 4 to the councilman. “I thought a major job needed to be done and was worried about the fish and turtles there…”
A month passed and Munoz said he didn’t see any repair work going on.

Reyes Rosales watches his children as they play along the lakeside, which has lost a significant amount of water. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

Reyes Rosales watches his children as they play along the lakeside, which has lost a significant amount of water. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

Last Friday, however, Montecito Heights resident Helen Driscoll told EGP she saw “about three trucks dumping water” in the pond, but the water was still down, significantly shrinking the size of the pond.

Recent rains have only raised the water level about two-inches, according to Munoz.

Reyes Rosales was out hiking last Friday with his children and stopped by the pond to play. Even with the water delivered earlier the pond still seemed very low, said the East LA resident.

“The drop in water goes back more than a month,” he told EGP in Spanish. “I think it will become dangerous for the animals, they may die.”

Cedillo Chief of Staff Arturo Chavez told EGP the problem started with the rupture of a valve that provides water pressure to a fire hydrant at the park.

“City plumbers noticed it and they closed the fire hydrants to do repairs,” he told EGP. “They also notified the local fire department station” about the situation, he said.

Although, people love the man-made pond and are worried about the wildlife, Chavez said the pond is really a reservoir that works with the irrigation system to the park, which he speculated could have contributed to the pond’s lower water level.

Park visitors worried that the pond was drying up started calling the park and elected officials.

In an effort to respond to their concerns, maintenance staff turned on the pipe to fill the pond and it broke another valve, Chavez explained.

Recreation and Parks staff would not comment on whether fire hydrants at the park had been impacted, but said “it is a complicated issue” and they are working on it.

“The pipes that are feeding the lake are old and ruptured,” Abel Perez, senior park maintenance supervisor told EGP via email.

According to Cedillo spokesperson Fredy Ceja, city crews started cutting asphalt Tuesday in search of the broken pipe disrupting the water flow.

“They will continue to cut asphalt until they find the broken pipe and fix it immediately, which should fix the problem,” he said.

Chavez told EGP the delay in getting to work on the broken water pipes could have been due to the holiday and staff shortages. He confirmed that the fire department is aware of the issue and has made plans for an alternate source of water if there is a fire emergency, either bringing in a water tank or using other fire hydrants.

City staff hopes to have the problem fixed by Friday.


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January 14, 2016  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.


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