LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — While all Californians are under mandatory water restrictions, CBS2 News cameras went undercover and found some federal facilities may be wasting water for hours at a time.
And government workers weren’t happy when Investigative Reporter David Goldstein tried to get answers.
“Can you shut that off? Or I’m going to have to confiscate your cameras,” Lina Satele of the V.A. Public Affairs Office told Goldstein and a CBS2 cameraman.
“No, you won’t,” Goldstein replied.
Satele claimed that since the investigative team was on federal property she could take the cameras.
Hidden cameras outside the Veterans Affairs West Los Angeles Medical Center caught workers setting up nearly a dozen water sprinklers – connected to the L.A. Department of Water and Power’s fresh water supply.
Under the City of L.A.’s Emergency Water Conservation Plan, the type of sprinklers used at the Veterans facility should not be used for more than eight minutes per watering day. And no DWP customer shall water between the hours of 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.
On Tuesday, June 2, CBS2 set up a time-lapse camera and watched the facility’s watering schedule.
The sprinklers started up at 8:41 a.m. and continue on well past eight minutes.
And past the 9 a.m. deadline.
The watering went on for more than two hours, with the valves being shut off at 10:44 a.m.
After they turned off the water, the lawn was so muddy with pooled up water that Goldstein had to put his boots on to walk across it – and this startling water waste is happening in the middle of California’s worst drought.
It wasn’t the first time. Last October, when water restrictions were already in place CBS2 caught them watering the same area at the V.A. facility for nearly six hours.
“How does that happen? Is that conserving water?” Goldstein asked V.A. grounds supervisor Willy Dye.
Dye claims they’ve cut back.
And you could certainly argue that going from six hours to two is saving water, but that’s still way more than what’s allowed.
The grounds supervisor says he was unaware of the over-watering.
“We had it two hours here – 120 minutes – and they recommend eight minutes?” Goldstein asked Dye.
He replied, “Well, what can I say?”
“But, you didn’t know? These are your men and women out here,” Goldstein pressed.
“Okay, I’m going to stop the interview right now. We’re going ahead and stop the interview,” Dye said.
At that point, Satele interjected, trying to stop the interview, because she didn’t know CBS2 had videotaped two hours of watering.
“I need you to stop,” she said.
Satele said the watering may have been done in June because the V.A. secretary was coming out from Washington D.C., and a few days later a ceremony was being held on the lawn, which wasn’t exactly green.
“The question is: Do you go by the guidelines of the local authority, which is DWP?” Goldstein asked Satele.
She interjected, “The interview is over.”
Goldstein continued: “Or is the federal government just saying, we don’t have to deal with that?”
“…I don’t know,” Satele said.
Satele later emailed saying the V.A.’s recommendation is to comply with LADWP and Governor Brown’s requirements. The facility, she claims, has cut back on water by 35 percent.
The V.A. facility in Loma Linda also claims it has cut back. But a CBS2 viewer sent in a video recorded on May 26 showing the V.A. property had a broken sprinkler head that sent water gushing up into the air and then down the drains.
CBS2 checked a few weeks later and saw it still wasn’t fixed.
Loma Linda facilities manager Jeff Schuller said it wasn’t repaired until CBS2 alerted them to it just last week.
Schuller said: “As soon as we’re aware of anything that’s broken or needs repair we get on it as fast as we can.”
“But it’s not my job to let you know. Shouldn’t one of your people have known that?” Goldstein told him.
“That’s true, it isn’t your job. But we appreciate the help,” Schuller said.
At Loma Linda they may appreciate the help, but in West L.A. all they wanted CBS2’s investigative team to do was leave.
Water Waste Tips: If you’ve seen water waste email your tips and video to David Goldstein at firstname.lastname@example.org.