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    In Depth

    LB's First Human West Nile Death Is In ELB Area With Standing Water In City Gutters; LB City Hall Sends Complaining Residents Letters; L.A. County Vector Control District Says It Treats ELB Gutters and Storm Drains On Recurring Cycle

    (August 12, 2004) -- An elderly woman who died on August 9 of the mosquito-borne West Nile Virus lived in a part of ELB that has had visible standing water in city-owned gutters and streets for some time.

    ELB WNV site Aug 9/ saw standing water in the gutter on the woman's block on the day she died. We saw this (right)...

    ELB WNV site Aug 9/04...and this (left) on her block on the afternoon of August 9.

    A KCBS/KCAL TV news reporter on scene also saw the standing water...and mentioned it in his broadcast report.

    In June, photographed standing water in other ELB areas and included it in our West Nile Virus coverage. In mid-June, we photographed standing water on San Anseline Ave. where one homeowner, frustrated at City Hall's failure to fix a broken gutter that was pooling water in front of his house, put up this sign:

    ELB Wetlands June 14/04
    Sign text: "Bev O'Neill/Jackie Kell, West Nile Breeding Pond, East Long Beach Wetlands, Brought to you by a Mayor and Council woman who doesn't care, No Fishing, No Swimming." The water level varies from day to day; this is how it looked on June 14:

    ELB Wetlands June 14/04

    On the same mid-June day on nearby Chatwin Ave. north of Wardlow Rd, photographed standing water running the length of several houses. A tree appeared to be pushed the gutter upward, preventing the water from running into a nearby storm drain. The water level varies from day to day:

    ELB Wetlands June 14/04

    ELB Wetlands June 14/04

    On June 16, received an email from a reader, reporting standing water at Conant St. and Charlemagne Ave. The email said neighbors have nicknamed it "Lake Charlecon." (The two photos below are views of the same area.)

    Charlemagne/Conant June 16/04

    Charlemagne/Conant June 16/04

    As previously reported by, at the July 13 LB City Council meeting, city staff said it was aware of close to 2,500 locations citywide with damaged curbs and gutters that result in standing water...and indicated it would cost close to $6 million to repair them. Staff said that when LB City Hall receives standing water complaints from residents, it now sends them a letter indicating that the site has been added to a list and will be fixed...when funding becomes available. has obtained one such letter and posts its salient text, below.

    The Greater Los Angeles County Vector Control District (GLACVCD), which handles mosquito abatement in roughly half of LB (east of Lakewood Blvd., north of PCH), takes standing water in streets seriously and tells that looks may be deceiving.

    GLACVCD Operations Supervisor Mark Hall told months ago (in answer to our query) that his crews treat standing water in ELB gutters and storm drains on a recurring cycle. The treatments last for a few days...and during the period when the treatments are effective, mosquitoes can't breed in the treated water. This lasts for a few days, and then must be repeated, which Mr. Hall said is done as part of an ongoing cycle.

    GLACVCD says it treats ELB area gutters, flood control channels and storm drains on a cycle using materials that should make standing water inhospitable for mosquito breeding. The agency says this is done to the extent staff and current resources allow.

    Mr. Hall told that the gutter water on the stricken woman's block was checked on August 9 and on that date, it did not contain any active mosquito larvae and did not require treatment. Without minimizing the seriousness of the challenge, Mr. Hall said that he had been in the area personally and -- at least on that date -- found only a small amount of mosquito involvement in the gutters he saw.

    However the sight of standing water in city-owned street gutters has infuriated a number of residents...who bristle when local officials tell homeowners to eliminate standing water on private property while seemingly ignoring it on city or other government-owned property.

    GLACVCD staffer, July/04In July, we watched as a GLACVCD district staffer (responding to an advisory from us) checked gutter water at the Chatwin Ave. location. She found most of it clear, but...

    ELB WNV site Aug 9/04...discovered living, wiggling mosquito larvae in one section.

    ELB WNV site Aug 9/04She donned protective gloves, got some substance from her truck...

    ELB WNV site Aug 9/04...and sprayed the water, killing the larvae.

    If this hadn't been done -- and GLACVCD says such treatments are done regularly -- hundreds of mosquitoes might hatch and swarm into the neighborhood within a few days.

    At the July 13 City Council meeting, GLACVCD District Manager Jack Hazelrigg said his agency "routinely sprays gutter water, any standing water, on about a seven to ten day basis, so there's no need for the residents to call our district and report standing water."

    GLACVCD staff have told that they are aware of the multiple challenges in ELB, which include numerous flood control channels and drainage ditches.

    GLACVCD Operations Supervisor Hall told that his crews work to treat the flood control channels, street gutters and underground storm drains (the latter, a major problem) on a regular, recurring cycle. "People may see standing water in the flood control channel, but what they may not realize is that we may have just come through the area and treated it," said Mr. Hall. He added that his crews cover considerable distances in a day's work.

    As previously reported by, GLACVCD isn't a "County" agency. It's a "special district," literally its own level of government...and responsible for mosquito and other vector abatement in a sprawling area stretching from northern L.A. County near Magic Mountain, through the San Fernando Valley, then south of the San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys (which have their own vector control districts) and down the southern and eastern areas of L.A. County including San Gabriel river and ELB to the OC line.

    Funded by a property tax assessment, GLACVCD has to cover the southern portion of its district (basically south of Burbank-Glendale) with approximately 30 field workers. From the trim agency's Santa Fe Springs HQ, workers appear uniformly proud of their efforts while acknowledging the magnitude of the task.

    The gutter and storm drain treatments must be done over and over since the treatments last only a few days and a mosquito life cycle can start anytime a female finds even a small amount of standing water and lays her eggs.

    On August 9, 14 GLACVCD staffers trudged door to door in midday heat, requesting voluntary entry into homeowners' backyards to check for standing water while handing out informational brochures. The area extended from Clark Ave. to San Anseline Ave., and from Parkcrest St. to Spring St., said GLACVCD spokesperson Stephanie Miladin.

    At the July 13 LB City Council meeting, LB's Acting City Health Officer, Dr. Helene Calvet, MD, urged citizens to attend to items on their private property "that may collect water, such as rain gutters, cans in the backyard, discarded tires...One thing to look out for are your planters. Over-watering and having that water collect in the bottom of your planters can be a great place for mosquitoes to breed."

    Dr. Calvet said:

    Now if you do have standing water in a public area, out in your gutter and other area, you can report this to the appropriate vector control district [caveat: different advice from Greater LA County Vector Control District official, above] and what will happen is they were sample the see if there's mosquitoes breeding there.

    Not all standing water is going to breed mosquitoes. They're somewhat particular. They like water that's kind of calm, has lots of plant matter in it, is not in the direct sunlight. So any kind of perturbation along that line, the mosquitoes are not going to like it all that much, they're not going to breed there.

    If they don't find mosquitoes, nothing necessarily needs to be done...If mosquito larvae are found, then the water will be treated. And what happens is that places that have consistent standing water get added to the list of areas that are regularly treated. So our vector control specialists will come and use different methods, sprays, pellets, etc. in these problem areas on a regular basis.

    If there seems to be some defect in the sidewalk...leading to standing water, we will make referrals to Public Works to try to remediate these areas, but that's not going to happen right away.

    Below is the text of a letter being sent to LB residents who advise City Hall of standing water in their street gutter:

    Dear Resident:

    This is in response to your telephone report regarding the subject drainage problem [in a reference line above]. Drainage issues such as yours have been a major concern in our City for many years. These problems are generally the result of displaced curb and gutter resulting from adjacent tree roots or failing pavement. Repairing these types of problems typically consists of extensive concrete replacement work that is beyond the maintenance capabilities of City crews.

    [Location] has been placed on a list for local street improvements and will be constructed as funding becomes available. Unfortunately, very limited funding is available for residential street repaving and the work cannot be scheduled at this time.

    To minimize the issue of standing water, it is recommended that all sprinklers be adjusted to avoid runoff into the street and that any water that does accumulated be dispersed with a broom. [ caveat: DO NOT sweep any twigs, leaves or solid material from gutters into a storm drain. Among other things, vector control says it could make the mosquito problem worse; debris in underground drains is one of the worst mosquito problems now.] If you have any concerns regarding the West Nile Virus, please contact Vector Control in the City of Long Beach's Department of Health and Human Services at (562) 570-4132 for more information...

    s/ Ed Aldridge
    Senior Civil Engineer

    Related coverage: collected West Nile Virus coverage

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